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Passionate Reason: Making Sense of Kierkegaard's Philosophical Fragments
 0253207223, 9780253207227

Table of contents :
Dedication
Contents
Preface
1. On Reading Kierkegaard and Johannes Climacus
2. An Ironical Thought Experiment
3. Constructing an Alternative to the Socratic View of “The Truth”
4. The Poetry of the Incarnation
5. Thought, Passion, and Paradox
6. The Echo of Offense
7. Reason and the Paradox
8. Belief and the Will
9. Faith and History
10. Christianity in the Contemporary World
Notes
Index

Citation preview

Passionate

Philosophical

Fm^ments

ASSIONATE

REASON

The Indiana

Series in the

Philosophy of Religion

GENERAL EDITOR Merold Westphal

ASSIONATE

REASON

MAKING SENSE O

F

KIERKEGAARD'S Philosophical Fragments

C.

STEPHEN EVANS

INDIANA UNIVERSITY PRESS Bloomington

& Indianapolis

©

1992 by C. Stephen Evans All rights reserved

No

part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. The Association of American University Presses' Resolution on Permissions constitutes the only exception to this prohibition. The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of American National Standard for Information Sciences— Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials,

ANSI

Z39.48'1984.

@™ Manufactured

in the

United States of America

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Evans, C. Stephen. Passionate reason

:

making sense of Kierkegaard's Philosophical

fragments / C. Stephen Evans. p.

cm.



(Indiana series in the philosophy of religion)

Includes bibliographical references

ISBN 0-253-32073-9 alk. 1.

2.

(alk.

paper).

(pbk.

Kierkegaard, Sc^ren, 1813-1855. Philosophiske smuler.

Religion— Philosophy.

I.

Title.

3

4

II.

Series.

1992

91-30417

201-dc20 2

ISBN 0-253-20722-3

paper)

BL51.E858 1

and index.

-

5

96

95

94

93

92

:

To my father and dearly missed mother, in gratitude for

many happy memories

that

are blended with the writing of this book.

Digitized by the Internet Archive in

2015

https://archive.org/details/passionatereasonOOcste

CONTENTS ix

Preface

1.

On

Reading Kierkegaard and Johannes

Climacus

1

2.

An

3.

Constructing an Alternative to the Socratic

Ironical

View

of

Thought Experiment

'The Truth"

13

26

4.

The

5.

Thought, Passion, and Paradox

58

6.

The Echo

80

7.

Reason and the Paradox

8.

Belief

9.

Faith and History

10.

Poetry of the Incarnation

of Offense

and the Will

Christianity in the

46

96 119

143

Contemporary World

170

Notes

183

Index

199

Preface

Schopenhauer called the mind-body problem "the world-knot" because he thought that all the problems of philosophy met there; untangle that problem

and clear

lines

could be found to unravel

Kierkegaard's Philosophical Fragments sense,

and

unravel

all

1

would not argue that

is

all

the others.

hardly a world-knot in just this

a successful interpretation of

the problems of philosophy. However,

1

am

it

would

convinced that

several of the key problems faced by the contemporary mind, not to

mention contemporary philosophy, come into focus when this book is read in a clear-headed way. Two problems have a special significance. The first problem concerns the place of religious faith especially in the contemporary world, whether that world be Christian faith thought of as "modern" or "postmodern." Traditional Christianity believed that the key to human existence was to be found in the life, death, and resurrection of a historical figure. Such faith has had grave knocks in the modem world dominated by Enlightenment rationalism. The historical beliefs about Jesus of Nazareth, bound up as they are with the acceptance of the miraculous and the supernatural, are alleged to be unfounded or even downright irrational. Perhaps even more fundamentally, the Enlightenment mind has had difficulty understanding how any historical events could have this kind of meaning for life here and now. Some theologians and religious thinkers see the postmodern world as more receptive to religious faith, and perhaps it is. The impact of Bill Moyer's PBS program, Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth, shows that contemporary society is still fascinated by religious themes. Perhaps the sociological picture of an increasingly and inevitably secular society is an empty "myth" that fails to recognize the power mythology still holds for us. Many Christian thinkers think we must accept perhaps even celebrate the categorizing of the central Christian stories as myths. However, it is by no means obvious that the transformation of the Christian gospel to mythology does not fundamentally change its meaning. Kierkegaard, at least, thought that something distinctive about Christianity, something that distinguished Christian faith from Greek philosophy, would be lost by the elimination of the historical. He thought not only that such a transformation would alter the character









of Christian faith in a decisive way, but that the character of my history

X

Preface

/

would be altered when the meaning of human existence is no longer centered in something historical. Philosophical Fragments pointedly raises the issue of whether history, either the history of a figure of an earlier period or the contemporary history of a living person, can have what

Kierkegaard would call "eternal significance."

The second problem that Philosophical Fragments brings into focus one that Kierkegaard confronts in dealing with the first issue. It concerns the place and character of reason in the contemporary world. is

The Enlightenment urged was seen

us to "dare to use your own reason." Reason an autonomous, objective power, a timeless faculty whose

as

was not taken seriously This image of reason

historical character

challenged by Kierkegaard,

who

what might be

dares to look at

the interested character of reason. For Kierkegaard, reason influenced by the passions;

it

has

itself

become

is

is

called

not merely

passionate.

Here Kierkegaard anticipates the collapse of classical foundationalist on by postmodern thinkers in a manner quite similar to the way Kierkegaard was utilized by existentialism in an earlier generation. However, I believe Kierkegaard's epistemology, and his work has been seized

deepest convictions

postmodernism as poorly as they fit postwar book I try to show that Kierkegaard does not

fit

existentialism. In this

leap from the passionate character of reason to relativism or antirealism.

He

thinks that a reason that recognizes

friend to

humans

gaard thinks there

might find

it.

its

passionate character

is

a

struggling to find their place. Furthermore, Kierkeis

a place to find

and that

it

is

even possible we

Thus, he poses a challenge both to modernism and

postmodernism. Both the friends and foes of "reason" are forced to

reexamine the actual character of Readers of

my

may wonder about Kierkegaard. territory.

Of

After

thinking.

and

Postscript,

the relation of this work to that attempt to engage

course

all,

human

earlier work, Kierkegaard's Fragments

it

is

a venturesome thing to return to familiar

Thomas Wolfe

has warned that you can't go

home

and the Johannes Climacus section of Kierkegaard's authorship is in some ways home ground for me. The reasons for returning to this ground are multiple. First, the ground is not wholly or even mainly the same. There is a fundamental difference between the structure of my again,

earlier

script

book and the current work. is

a thematic study, organized

Philosophical Fragments

Kierkegaard's Fragments and Post-

around the key concepts of both

and Concluding

Unscientific Postscript.

attempted to deal with these concepts in what order, with

1

more primitive concepts and arguments

1

there

took to be a logical treated before those

Preface

which presuppose them.

No

attempt

is

made

xi

/

there to look at the order

or literary structure of the Kierkegaardian texts.

The

present work limits

itself to

and

Philosophical Fragments

attempts to give a consistent reading of the book as a whole.

it

It is

a

kind of philosophical commentary that combines exegesis (though not of the line-by-line type), interpretation, and critical interaction. After

some

initial orientation,

I

work

straight

through the text of Fragments,

attempting to deal with the major issues that would worry a serious

and order of Fragments So the book differs from my one of the Climacus books and in

reader. Questions about the purpose, structure,

come

obviously earlier

one

in for special attention.

in limiting itself to

attempting to treat that work as a literary whole. Besides these structural differences, there are differences in problems and perspective as well. As I have continued to read and think about the Johannes Climacus literature, I have seen a number of problems emerge that either were not dealt with or were not dealt with adequately in

my

earlier book. Secondly, to the degree there

is

overlap in the

somewhat new perspective on the ground covered. Though I think the present book is consistent with the main theses of my earlier work, my reading of other authors on books,

I

believe this book reflects a

the Climacus books has changed

my

thinking. In particular,

I

now

think a great deal more attention must be paid to the literary form of these works and the irony that pervades that form.

Nevertheless, this book shares philosophical purposes with lier

one.

have not

I

refrained, therefore,

such questions as the relation of

from having

human

my own

my

ear-

say

on

reason to purported divine

revelations and the relation tianity I

and

between a revealed religion such as Chrismy own arguments for the views hope my readers will go back and continue to read

history, or

wish to defend.

I

from presenting

Philosophical Fragments for themselves, but

tivation for doing so issues the

book

is

I

believe that the best

mo-

gained from hard work on the philosophical

raises.

must in conclusion express my gratitude to Merold Westphal for convincing me that a book of this sort on Fragments was needed, and for his confidence that I was the person to do it. I join that expression of thanks with a hope that he will soon complete his own projected I

commentary on Concluding Unscientific Postscript, which in my mind will serve as a natural companion to my own book. I also owe a heavy debt to Robert Roberts, George Connell, and to Charles Taliaferro, all of whom read an earlier draft of this work and gave me detailed criticisms and suggestions.

xii

Preface

/

The principal work for this book was done at Emory University in 1988-89 with the support of a Fellowship for College Teachers from the National

vided

me

Endowment

Humanities. Emory University pro-

for the

with congenial working conditions and an office in their

excellent Candler Library as a Fellow of the Institute for Faith Devel-

opment.

am

St.

Olaf College also provided

profoundly grateful to

Though

of chapter "Is

me

with an early sabbatical.

articles in

work was conceived and written as part of one worked through the issues, some portions were order to get some critical feedback. Thus, a section

7,

in

an

I

earlier incarnation,

was published under the

Kierkegaard an Irrationalist? Reason, Paradox, and Faith," in

ious Stvidies,

I

three of these institutions.

this entire

coherent project, as

spun off as

all

Volume

25. Similarly,

in earlier versions, appeared as

some

title

Relig-

sections of chapters 8 and 9,

"Does Kierkegaard Think

Beliefs

Can

Be Directly Willed?" and "The Relevance of Historical Evidence

for

Christian Faith," in International Journal for Philosophy of Religion (Vol-

ume

26) and Faith and Philosophy

(Volume

7) respectively.

to those journals for permission to use that material.

My

thanks

ASSIONATE

REASON

CHAPTER 1 ON READING KIERKEGAARD AND JOHANNES CLIMACUS

Philosophical Fragments

generally agreed to be one of Kierkegaard's

is

most significant works. There

is,

however, no general agreement about

the nature of the book's significance.

It

is

a short book, only a little

over a hundred pages in length, attributed to a pseudonym, one

Johannes Climacus. himself says that

could write, lessness"

on the

it

this

^

on the

in

It is

not a book which every divinity school student

is

is,

one sense a simple book. Though Climacus

I

think, due

more

to a lack of "dialectical fear-

part of the seminarian than to a lack of

part of the student, since the content of the

knowledge

book

is

for the

most part "nothing but old-fashioned orthodoxy with a suitable degree of severity."^ But in a deeper sense to understand,

one

full

relation to the content

As

if

the book

possible to decide it

is

itself

how

it

is

a

book which

enough

from easy

difficulties,

it

is

im-

the book should be approached without seeing

whether Kierkegaard's authorship does have, if so,

far

deeply puzzling.

did not present

in the larger context of Kierkegaard's authorship.

purpose, and

is

of irony and satire, with a literary form whose

what that purpose

pseudonyms must be decided,

is.

The

as

One must

decide

he claimed, a unifying

nature and purpose of the

as well as the relation

between the

pseudonymous section of the authorship and that which Kierkegaard published under his

own name. Having done

that,

one must then

decide the specific character and purposes of the Johannes Climacus

pseudonym and I

have no

faction of

all

its

role in Kierkegaard's overall literature.

illusions that

I

can answer these questions to the

Kierkegaard interpreters. Nevertheless,

I

owe my

satis-

readers

2

PASSIONATE REASON

/

some account of the assumptions with which and the thinking which

lies

shall

I

approach the work,

behind those assumptions. The richness

of Kierkegaard's authorship makes the quest for anything like a final, definitive interpretation a hopeless one,

and there

are approaches to

my own, and

Kierkegaard's literature which differ radically from

have shown themselves

my

approach

illuminating

is

and

to be interesting

one that

is

fruitful.

faithful to the text

way of approaching

I

yet

claim only that

and that

provides an

it

a host of significant problems.

THREE TYPES OF KIERKEGAARD LITERATURE I

find

useful to divide recent literature

it

broad types.

pseudonyms and read Kierkegaard

on Kierkegaard's

on Kierkegaard more or

there are books which

First,

less

into three

ignore the

as a straight philosopher,

literature as a whole.-

I

would place

drawing

in this group

philosophers such as Stephen Dunning, Louis Pojman, John Elrod, and

Mark C.

the early writings of

Taylor.

Though

obviously the philo-

sophical approaches of these authors differ greatly, ranging from the analytic perspective of

Pojman

of Dunning, they have in

to the structuralist, dialectical reading

common an

approach which emphasizes

Kierkegaard as a philosopher and makes the particular character of

We

the pseudonyms unimportant.

might

call this

the philosophical

approach.

The second way approach, since to

book, Kierkegaard:

proach"

is

of reading Kierkegaard could be called the literary

some degree

A

Kind of

it

stems from Louis Mackey's important

Poet."^

However, the term

not completely satisfactory, since

later writings of

Mark C. Taylor and

have

I

in

"literary ap-

mind here the

others associated with the series

Kierkegaard and Postmodernism, of which Taylor

is

editor.

These authors

wish to bring Kierkegaard into relation with deconstructionism and other contemporary

approach"

is

Kierkegaard's work literary artist,

there

is

movements

and

in

is

decisive. Kierkegaard

The term

"literary

is

fundamentally a poet or

Mackey's words, "Whatever philosophy or theology

in Kierkegaard

the poetry."^

in literary criticism.'

suggestive, since for these authors the literary form of

is

sacramentally transmitted

'in,

with, and under'

— On

Reading Kierkegaard and Johannes Climacus

However, the term

"literary

way the Kierkegaardian

approach"

fails

approached

texts are

The

apparent content.

its

view" in Kierkegaard

to express the distinctive

as Uterature here. Follow-

ing Derrida, these authors see Kierkegaard's

subverting

work

as

fundamentally

search for any overall "point of

therefore regarded as hopeless.

is

3

/

must be read on their own terms, and their work destructive than directed toward establishing

is

The pseudonyms

more

ironical

and

—or even undermining

traditional philosophical positions through straightforward arguments,

and so on. Hence

dialectical analyses, this

A I

I

think the best description of

second perspective may be "the ironical approach."^ third category of

would term

it

work

is

best seen as a synthesis of the

Recent books on

literary-philosophical.

two;

first

Philosophical

Fragments by H. A. Nielsen and Robert Roberts would be excellent illustrations of

what

have

I

second group, Nielsen

in mind.*^ Like the

and Roberts take the pseudonyms

seriously,

and

this leads

the literary structure of the books seriously. Also, as

much

the ironical interpreters, they see

is

them

to take

the case with

of Kierkegaard's intent as

negative, humorous, and ironical subversion of the philosophical and theological status quo. However, unlike the ironical group they see this approach as blocking

philosophical, but,

on the

any consideration of the text

do not

as primarily

contrary, as freeing the reader up for an

encounter with the text which

be philosophical in what might be

will

termed a Socratic sense. Though tatives of all three approaches,

have learned much from represen-

I

it

approach that

this third

is

I

shall

attempt to follow most closely in the present work.

The assumption

that underlies

my

approach

is

that though Kierke-

gaard does subvert the epistemological tradition of classical foundationalism,

he

is

no

friend of historicism

and relativism

either. Kierkegaard

reminds us forcefully of our finitude, and he wants us to recognize the relativity

and

historicity of our situation,

even with respect to what

philosophers like to call Reason and Evidence. There

method of grasping the

truth. Nevertheless, there

and what Kierkegaard wants us to see just a screen that distorts the truth,

that,

when

but

is

is

is

no

risk-free

truth to be grasped,

that our subjectivity

may be

or

become

a

is

not

medium

controlled by the right kind of passion, opens us up to an

encounter with truth. This encounter cannot produce "the system";

cannot eliminate the

risk that

we

are mistaken.

However,

it

it

can allow

4

PASSIONATE REASON

/

us to participate in a truth that, provisionally

can transform our

and

partially at least,

lives.

A POINT OF VIEW ON THE AUTHORSHIP I

begin by affirming that

literature has

he put to

it

in

end a

an overall

agree with Kierkegaard himself that his

I

religious purpose

The Poird of View for

and that Kierkegaard was,

My Work as an Author,

as

"from beginning

religious author." In this review of his literature, Kierkegaard

views his whole authorship as consisting of two streams, one aesthetic

and one

religious.

The

apparently aesthetic writings have, however, as

their purpose leading the aesthetic reader to the place

where he can

seriously confront the religious works. This claim of Kierkegaard has

on the grounds

often been attacked

that

it

is

by no means clear that

Kierkegaard understood his purposes at the beginning of his authorship as

he did

at the end,

when he wrote The

Point of View. Louis

Mackey

has recently argued that there can be no such ''point of view" for Kierkegaard's writings, only points of view.*^ This charge goes in

hand

with a view of Kierkegaard as deeply confused and even radically

own

deceived about his I

have no wish

to

or clarity about his areas,

though

I

life

endow Kierkegaard with superhuman

life.

Like the rest of

us,

self-insight

he surely struggled

in these

do think he probably struggled more energetically and

The

readings of his works and

successfully

than most of

us by Josiah

Thompson," Henning Fenger, and

Louis

self-

and authorship.^°

Mackey seem

us.

unjustifiably cynical to

life

given

in the later writings of

me; certainly they

fall

short

of the standard of love discussed by Kierkegaard himself in Works of Love, where he argues that the lover "believes

all

things" in the sense

of always seeking to discover the most charitable interpretation of

another's

life.'^

However,

for

my

purposes,

it is

the truth of Kierkegaard's account of his

not necessary to decide

own

life.

For in the final

analysis, as Kierkegaard himself would be the first to affirm, the

meaning

of a body of literature cannot be determined by the intentions of the

author, but by

what the author

In other words,

my

realized.

justification for seeing a religious purpose as

providing a unity to Kierkegaard's literature

is

not that he affirms that

On he intended such a

Reading Kierkegaard and Johannes Climacus

illuminates

it

way

unity, but that looking at the literature in this

manner. Kierkegaard himself admits that

in a powerful

he did not have a clear understanding of the plan of the the outset.-^ His

5

/

own

literature at

understanding of what he was about changed as

he personally developed. He attributed the unity of the authorship providence/"* an explanation

which

which many

certainly involves a recognition

on

his part that the

whole thing

was not planned out in advance. Whether Kierkegaard intended not, the unity

is

to

will doubtless discount, but

it

or

there in the text, in the sense that an honest reading

of the authorship beginning with Either /Or and continuing through

the later explicitly Christian writings can discern a consistent

Arguments and

literary

the reader toward religious In a sense what

mony;

I

can

I

issues.

am

offering

on behalf of

truly affirm that the literature has

me when read in how the literature

this is

telos.

forms work together in an amazing way to draw

manner. But

clarified

also

hope

to

to test

my

is

show my

and illuminated when read

them

and, ultimately, challenge

I

this thesis

testi-

taken on a power for readers

in this way,

claims by going back to

Kierkegaard.

TAKING JOHANNES CLIMACUS SERIOUSLY No area of Kierkegaard interpretation has given rise to more controversy than the pseudonyms. Some have taken

remark

at the

affirms that

end of Concluding

though he

donymous books, "not

is

as literal fact Kierkegaard's

Unscientific Postscript, in

which he

the legally responsible author of the pseu-

a single word" of the

belongs to Kierkegaard himself.

Indeed, Louis

pseudonymous authors

Mackey has even

gested that the books Kierkegaard authored under his

own name

simply from another pseudonym, so that "S0ren Kierkegaard"

one more

literary persona.^^

is

sug-

are just

At the other extreme, some authors have

simply ignored the pseudonyms altogether, and have developed an

overview of "Kierkegaard's" views by drawing from

all

the pseudony-

mous works.

The Johannes Climacus pseudonym

has given

rise

to as

much

controversy as any. There has been a tendency to view the Climacus

6

PASSIONATE REASON

/

pseudonym

as a

mask

for Kierkegaard,

even on the part of those who

take other Kierkegaardian pseudonyms quite seriously. Niels Thulstrup, for

example, argues that because of the similarities between Fragments

and other works Kierkegaard published is

at the time,

documentary evidence that the work was

and because there

originally written

under

own name, with only minor changes when the pseudonym "the work is both thought and written in Kierkegaard's own

Kierkegaard's

was added,

name and

therefore cannot be considered a truly

Consistent with this claim, Thulstrup's

pseudonymous work."^^

own commentary

takes the

Fragments as a straightforward philosophical work. Thulstrup locates historical antecedents, tries to discern at objections, is

main

theses

its

and arguments, looks

and so on, under the guiding assumption that the text

Kierkegaard's own. In contrast, H. A. Nielsen's Where the Passion

Is:

A

Reading of

Kierkegaard's Philosophical Fragments takes the Johannes Climacus

pseudonym with

great seriousness, or with as

much

seriousness as

one

can give to a professedly playful author. Nielsen takes deliberate account of the non-Christian point of view from which Climacus writes in

end of chapter

interpreting and assessing the book. For example, at the 1,

Climacus puts forward what he describes

as a

of the hypothesis he has "invented," a hypothesis

"proof of the truth

which bears

resemblance to the Christian story of the incarnation provide salvation for

human

beings. Since

as

a striking

God's plan to

Climacus professes not to

be a Christian, Nielsen argues that there must be a difference between accepting the truth of this hypothesis and genuine Christian a similar

manner, Robert Roberts,

riously, tentatively suggests that

who

also takes the

faith. '"^ In

pseudonym

some of the arguments

se-

in the "Inter-

lude" section of the book are bad arguments which are to be read ironically as parodies of

genuine arguments, a conjecture which Roberts

on the humoristic character of the pseudonym.'^ book I intend to follow the policy of Roberts and Nielsen

partially bases

In this

and the precedent of

my own

Kierkegaard's Fragments and Postscript,

by taking the Johannes Climacus pseudonym as a genuine pseudonym.

Thulstrup

is

undoubtedly right in claiming that Fragments was originally

written under Kierkegaard's

own name,

but that fact does not have the

decisive importance that Thulstrup gives

it.

First, as

Thulstrup himself

points out, there were revisions to the book after the

pseudonym was

On

Reading Kierkegaard and Johannes Climacus

One cannot

added, notably to the preface.

however

that these changes,

an a

say in

may not be

small,

the thrust of the book as a whole. Taking the

7

/

priori

manner

significant in altering

pseudonym

seriously, for

example, allows one to consider the possibility that the tone of the preface alters the sense of the

Even more

pseudonym

possibility that the transition to a

result of a discovery

book.

as a whole.

significantly, taking the

open the

leaves

book

on Kierkegaard's

as a

genuine persona

pseudonym was the

part about the character of the

Any creative author, and Kierkegaard was nothing if not creative, his own work in the process of writing and

makes discoveries about rewriting.

may

It

well be that the humoristic, non-Christian Climacus

pseudonym embodies the standpoint have taken

in the

of the pseudonym, even

made, can be seen part,

that Kierkegaard found himself to

composition of the book. In if

fact,

no other changes

as a significant act of rewriting

one which potentially

the mere affixing

in the

book had been

on Kierkegaard's

sentence by altering the per-

alters every

spective of the author. Finally, taking the little risk.

no

pseudonym

In reading the

book

is

a strategy

and sober philosophy, this in

some

simply because

as

If

we choose

we

will

pseudonym

I

think

it

make or

its

does indeed

to play along with Kierkegaard

And

if

and regard

Climacus does present

views which are substantially in agreement with Kierkegaard's the time the book was written, there fact.

offers

not be barred from learning things

ourselves as learning from Climacus.

ognizing that

I

the book presents us with serious

Thulstrup asserts (and

sections),

which

by Johannes Climacus,

a priori assumptions about the character of the

relation to Kierkegaard himself.

do

seriously

as written

is

own

at

nothing to prevent our rec-

In summary, taking the

pseudonym

seriously safe-

guards several significant possibilities for the reader while foreclosing

none. At

least this will

be true for the philosophical reader.

purpose in reading Philosophical Fragments

may be

our

for

present in attributing the book to the pseudonym.

If,

however, we read the book, with a

If

to construct a history of

some potential

the development of Kierkegaard's loss

own

is

as

I

views, then

wish to do,

as forcing us to grapple

set of significant philosophical questions,

grapple with Johannes Climacus.

then we do well to

8

PASSIONATE REASON

/

GETTING TO KNOW JOHANNES CLIMACUS If

we

are to grapple with

Johannes Climacus, we need to get to know

him, of course. That task turns out not to be an easy one. Climacus a

somewhat

biographical facts to work with, and this

on the

readers to focus

who

curious readers

he

issues

speculate

on

is

discusses;

own

his

said

is

most

me

ask

is

real

he does not want nosy,

personal standpoints.

Such

work with.

where Climacus does

clearly in the preface,

best to fend off the reader's curiosity: "But

no one

have no

no accident. Climacus wants

readers are frustrated by being given nothing to

This

We

elusive, as well as ethereal, character.

what

my

is

his

opinion?... Let

about that, for next to knowing whether

I

have an

opinion, nothing could be more insignificant to another person than

knowing what my opinion possible that so,

it

is

Climacus goes on to say that

is."^'

he may find some personal benefit from

"Do

his business.

who, serving by the

altar,

I

get any reward for this,

themselves eat of what

vacy, and

1

me

will force us to think

which the book was

I

is

if

like those

on the

altar?..

take the Johannes

to respect this request for pri-

shall try to follow this policy,

form of the book

am

laid

me to

Leave that to me."" The same reasons that lead

Climacus pseudonym seriously lead

is

it

his work, but

though

at times the literary

about the perspective from

written.

a nosy desire to know Johannes Climacus' know more about what kind of an author he is and literature he is offering us. The literature is evidently

one can, without

Still,

opinions, want to

what kind of

philosophy of a philosopher of a

sort,

which presumably makes Johannes Climacus

sort. It

is

that Climacus has a great interest in issues,

but which

a host of issues

studies"

I

would prefer

Some

to

which come up

which do not insight here

interest is

a

equally evident from the content of the book

what some might

term in

what

Climacus

call religious

spiritual issues, since there are

at

is

today termed "religious

all.

,

provided by the name. Johannes Climacus

means "John the Climber." The name is that of a monk from the monastery on Sinai, who is well known for having written The Ladder of Divine Ascent, a

book which purports

for attaining spiritual perfection.

to give step- by-step instructions

Our Johannes Climacus

is

obviously

On

Reading Kierkegaard and Johannes CUmacus

a different person, and he shows

no

how an

in the question as to

knowledge of the

interest in or

Johannes Climacus. However,

original

monk, he

like the

9

/

is

interested

individual attains spiritual wholeness.

Perhaps a remark about Hegel in Kierkegaard's Journals and Papers gives us the right clue here.

"Hegel

who

a Johannes Clinuicus

is

does not

storm the heavens as do the giants, by setting mountain upon mountain

—but

enters

them by means of

his syllogisms.""

Johannes Climacus

is

thought in attaining

spiritual perfection.

As

a philosopher

interested in the question as to the value of

What

thought in general, play in becoming what

Many commentators have

1

role

can philosophy, or

should become?

explored an early, unfinished work of

Kierkegaard's, unpublished during his lifetime, Johannes Climacus,

De Omnibus Dubitandum

Est,'"*

in order to gain

Or

more knowledge about

Johannes. In this work Kierkegaard sketches a biography of a young

man, Johannes Climacus, who

tries seriously to realize

program of universal doubt. The subject of

number

this

the philosophical

biography

of acute questions about the nature of doubt and

to philosophy. Kierkegaard evidently intended the critique of

contemporary philosophers

easily attained

and

easily

who

book

wrote as

transcended standpoint.

if

as

its

raises a

relation

an indirect

doubt were an

The plan

of the book

was evidently to have young Johannes enmesh himself in doubt and then discover no way of resolving his doubts, even his doubts about doubt.

While Johannes Climacus its

own

sake,

I

shall

author of Philosophical -Fragments First,

we must remember

work that

a

is

not employ

it

.

as

is

well worth studying for

an intellectual biography of the

There

are several reasons for this.

that Johannes Climacus

is

an unfinished work

that Kierkegaard decided not to publish. Secondly, basis for

assuming that the subject of the book

is

we have no

author of Philosophical Fragments. Thirdly, Johannes Climacus

authored by Kierkegaard. Even that the subject of the

we would have only

book

if

is

we made

who seems

a

book

identical with the author of Fragments,

the third-person testimony of Kierkegaard about

far

removed from the mature,

somewhat enigmatic, author of

We

is

the unwarranted assumption

Climacus. Furthermore, the picture given of Climacus

innocent

real

identical with the

is

of a young

self-confident,

if

Philosophical Fragments.

are not limited to the text of Fragments for our

knowledge of

10

PASSIONATE REASON

/

Climacus, however, for he

the author of Concluding Unscientific

is

work which

Postscript to the Philosophical Fragments, a

to Fragments in a

which

is

number of ways. The

Postscript

half-promised at the end of the

number of places.

discusses Fragments in a

first

is

obviously tied

is

a sequel to Fragments

book, and the sequel

We have every right therefore

to look at Fragments in light of that latter work, with the proviso of

course that the text of Fragments

And we

have every

mind the

in

Climacus

Climacus turns out to be an

fact that

who

what he means or thinks

author of

as the

respect to both works, however,

downright devious author, say

remains our primary concern.

right to understand

With

Postscript as well.

itself

we

shall

elusive,

keep

if

not

perhaps cannot always be trusted to

in a straightforward

manner.

In the Postscript Climacus describes himself as a humorist. This suggests of course that his writings will be funny,

looks for wit and

humor

in Climacus' writings will not be disappointed.

However, the concept of humor involves

and the reader who

much more than

Climacus

for

just wit.

This

is

a rich one,

which

not the place for a

is

full

account of the concept of humor in Climacus' writings (and Kierkegaard

Here

generally).'^

I

merely

will

of the concept which shed light

Humor

for

Climacus

important business of

ament.

We

find

in

sketch a few significant aspects as

It

involves insight into the

what Climacus

better termed incongruities.

A

is

relief

from the

human

calls contradictions,

caricature

predic-

perhaps

comical because of the

is

contradiction between likeness and unlikeness

who

an author and character.

not merely amusement, a

is

life.

humor

try to

on Climacus

it

contains.

A comedian

takes a pratfall by falling into a hole while gazing up at the sky

funny because of the incongruity between the upward gaze and the

downward

ascent.^^

Of course

not every incongruity or contradiction

such incongruities are

tragic.

To

must have the sting removed.

qualify as

We

is

humorous; often

humorous, a contradiction

must somehow find the situation

painless, by gaining a

detached perspective on, the contradiction, by

having what Climacus

calls "a

Everyone

is

way

in this situation

out."'^

some of the

time; everyone laughs at

The person Climacus describes as a humorist is someone who has somehow been able to take this humoristic perspective on life as a whole. The whole of human existence is seen as deeply incongruous.

some

things.

On

We human

Reading Kierkegaard and Johannes CUmacus

11

/

beings have the grandest plans and yet are frustrated by

on human somehow found "the

the most trivial of circumstances. Nevertheless, the final word

not tragedy.

life is

The

existential humorist has

way out" which allows him

human As

aspirations to

what

and what

this

between

to smile at the contradiction life

"way out"

has to

offer.

Climacus

is,

coy,

is

and perhaps

it

be different things for different humorists. However,

it

something

The humorist

like a religious perspective for

a contradiction

not

striving for

meaning and

sees

significance

we

all in fact

to get nowhere. Nevertheless the humorist finds this

funny and

and the

seem

between our busy

Climacus.

will

seems to involve

fact that in the end,

"we

and in so doing reveals

tragic,

all

a conviction,

what we human beings are seeking the end.

The assumption seems

get equally far;"^^

is

however obscure, that

something we

to be that

possess, at least in

what various

religions

called "salvation," "eternal life," or "eternal consciousness"

This allows the humorist to relax a

within

us.

not

removed from that of the speculative philosopher,

far

bit,

is

have

present

an attitude

to take

whom

Wil-

liam James described as taking a "moral holiday" from the seriousness of the ethical

purpose."

life.

A

humorist, says Climacus, has "no seriousness of

Though he may be

his action, regards

Climacus

is

it

as

active, in the

end he always "revokes"

having no fundamental importance.^*^

careful to distinguish this humoristic religious perspec-

from Christianity. The religious perspective of the humorist may

tive

have come about through an encounter with Christianity;

one place Climacus suggests that a humorist a kind of intellectual

religious perspective of the

and passion of Christian one which calls is

is

in at least

someone who has gained

knowledge of Christianity that has not been

existentially realized.^^ Still, the humorist

The

is

faith,

is

far

from being a Christian.

humorist leads, not to the commitment but to a kind of detached perspective,

conducive to philosophical reflection and what Climacus

psychological experimentation (more

on the

latter will follow). It

Climacus also says that humor can be the outward

true that

disguise,

the incognito, of a true Christian, and in reading Fragments,

tempting

at

Christian,

times to speculate that Climacus

who

has adopted

humor

but

we

we

find Climacus himself taking

are

still

may be

as his outer cloak.

just

This

is

it

is

such a possible,

better off in such a case respecting the disguise, unless it

off to reveal himself.

(There are

12

PASSIONATE REASON

/

some passages see.)

he

I

in Fragments that

can be read

shall therefore, at least initially, take

says

he

is

as

doing

Climacus

this, as

at his

we

shall

word when

not a Christian.

among other

Philosophical Fragments,

relation of Christianity to philosophy.

things,

is

One can

a

book about the from the

easily see,

preceding description of the humorist, that someone like Johannes

Climacus

is

an

such a book. As a humorist, Climacus

ideal author for

can be knowledgeable about Christianity and interested as well as other religious perspectives.

He

in Christianity,

can, however, maintain the

philosophical detachment necessary to look at the issues

fairly.

His

thinking as a humorist has what one might call an experimental quality to

it.

By "experiment" Climacus does not mean anything one does

ically.

in

he experiments by thinking hypothet-

a laboratory of course. Rather,

The Hongs have chosen

to translate the

Danish experiment by

"imaginative construction," and the translation certainly captures an essential aspect of

what

is

meant. The experimenter

is

a thinker

who

thinks under the guise of "suppose this were so." Philosophical Fragments is

just

such an experiment,

as

we

grand attempt to think

shall see, a

out the consequences of a certain assumption, one which

is

never

asserted as true but only entertained hypothetically. In the next chapter I

shall try to give

an overall perspective on

descending to the details of the actual

issues

this

experiment, before

and problems discussed.

CHAPTER

AN IRONICAL THOUGHT EXPERIMENT

Before examining the details of Philosophical Fragments to

have an overall perspective on the book.

I

it

,

will

be helpful

shall try to provide

such

a perspective in this chapter by sketching the book's overall project as I

see

it

and by looking

Having noted it

is

warring approaches to reading Kierkegaard,

my own,

hardly surprising that any such sketch, including

be controversial.

by

motto, and preface.

at the book's title page,

earlier the

its

The

fruitfulness of

power to make sense of the

my approach will,

1

must

hope, be shown

particular issues to be discussed in

subsequent chapters.

AN INITIAL SKETCH Philosophical Fragments

is,

at least

on the

surface,

an extended thought

experiment. Climacus begins by posing a Socratic (or Platonic) puzzle

How

about truth.

can the truth be learned?

It is

very soon evident that

He is not talking essential for human beings to would make human life ultimately

by truth Climacus means something very significant. about 2+2=4, but the truth which have, the truth whose possession

worthwhile.

We

might

it is

as well signify the specialness of the

by speaking of "the Truth" in cases where

this special

concept

kind of truth

is

in mind, as the original English translation of Fragments did, rather

than

just truth.

The

How I

Socratic puzzle concerns the difficulty of seeking the Truth.

can

I

seek for what

do not need

to acquire

1

do not know?

it,

If

and cannot be

I

already

know

said to seek

it.

the Truth, If

1

do not

14

know

PASSIONATE REASON

/

the Truth,

I

cannot seek

and could not recognize

for

that this Socrates

is

it,

it if I

for

do not know what

I

found

it.^

in

looking

evident

a very Platonic Socrates) solved this puzzle, ac'

cording to Climacus, by postulating that

Truth

am it is

I

Socrates (and

some way and

human

beings do possess the

that the acquisition of the Truth

really a

is

recollection of something a person already possesses.

own

Consistent with this hypothesis, Socrates viewed his teacher as that of a midwife ideas.^

The person who

who

learns

helps others give birth to their

from Socrates that the Truth

himself already realizes at the same moment,

he

.really

is

own

within

has learned

essential debt.

has learned he has learned from himself, and Socrates has

served only as an occasion for his in

if

owe Socrates any

the Socratic lesson, that he does not

What he

role as a

which a person acquires

tance either, for at the same

moment

Truth, he realizes that at bottom

Climacus thinks that acquisition

is

it

it

The moment

cannot have a decisive impor-

at

which the person acquires

this

has always been in his possession.

among

Truth and

philosophers. Indeed,

it is

its

more

taken for granted; most philosophers simply

is

assume some variation of alternative.

self-actualization.

this "Socratic" picture of the

very widely held

accurate to say that

own

this insight

this picture

(What Climacus means by

and cannot even imagine an this

and why he thinks

be explored in the next chapter.) Hence, he

sets

this will

himself the philo-

sophical task of trying to discover an alternative to the Socratic view.

He embarks on a thought experiment which consists of the construction is different from the Socratic view. He does not (with

of a view which

a few apparent exceptions, to be discussed in due course) concern

himself with the truth of this alternative, but merely attempts to see if

there

is

any such alternative. In sketching out

underlying procedure

is

this alternative, the

simply to ask, "Is this view genuinely different

from the Socratic view?" Thus, Climacus

will often reject a possibility

by arguing that accepting such a view would "return us to Socrates,"

and

just as frequently,

he

will

add a wrinkle to his "thought-project"

by merely claiming that the wrinkle makes his constructed view genuinely different

from the Socratic perspective. Of course one might think

that there are

many views which

Socratic view, and

Climacus

will

it

are genuinely different from the

seems possible a

be happy

if

priori that this

he can think up

just

might be

one coherent

so,

but

alternative.

An Even an unsophisticated

Irordcd

Thou^

Experiment

15

/

reading of Fragments would reveal

first

that the alternative Climacus seems to be "inventing" bears a suspicious

resemblance to Christianity.

be otherwise" than the

"If things are to

moment

Socratic view, says Climacus, then "the

decisive significance, unlike the Socratic view,

With

has no intrinsic importance.

Chmacus

moment

The

learner must not

acquire or develop the Truth

on his

mean

to

everything,

must be one of being

state of the learner

devoid of the Truth.^

must have

this slim hypothetical foundation,

goes to work. In order for the

then the preceding

in time"

where the moment

totally

even have the capacity to

Such a state of error Climacus

own."*

decides to call "sin." In such a case the teacher required will be

mere midwife, but someone who

Such an

grasp the Truth.

act

amounts

to a re-creation of the learner,

and therefore only the god could be the teacher on

The god-teacher who mere teacher, but a

no

will give the learner the ability to

this alternative.^

thus makes possible the learner's

savior, deliverer, reconciler,

and

new birth is no The disciple

judge.^'

of the god cannot regard his relationship to the god Socratically; he

owes the god everything, and that

he

sees himself as

back on his old

life

his

new

life

with the god

is

so different

one who has been converted, who must look

with a kind of sorrow described as repentance.^

In chapter 2 Climacus imaginatively fleshes out his experiment by a poetic attempt to for

human

show that the god could function

human

persons only by becoming a

as

such a teacher

person himself.

The

divine teacher can carry out his teaching only through an incarnation.

The

god's actions in

historical events.

to gain

becoming the teacher must therefore be actual

Chapter

3 reflects

knowledge of God and

of unaided

human

on human philosophical attempts

specifically tries to

show the

reason to gain the kind of knowledge of

such an incarnation would make possible. Here

it is

own

inability to

for the

it

When

unaided

cannot even adequately understand

know God, though something

encounter with the god

that

argued that reason

cannot even gain a knowledge of the god^ negatively. by the god's self-revelation,

inability

God

is

its

of positive significance

nonetheless learned from the

failure.

Chapters 4 and 5 return to the story of the god's appearance and sketch the kind of historical relationship

human

beings might have to

such an incarnate god, both for immediate contemporaries of the god in history,

and

for later generations.

The

thrust of the account

is

simply

16

that

PASSIONATE REASON

/

one becomes a

disciple of the god, capable of learning the

Truth

from him, only through a direct relationship. This relationship occurs by means of sensory experience, in the case of the immediate contemporary of the god's appearance, and by means of historical testimony in the case of later generations.

However, neither the sensory experience

nor the historical testimony

is

more than an occasion

for a direct

encounter with the god that establishes the relationship. In neither case

is

god a product of rational evaluation of evidence.

faith in the

The book

as a

whole thus has a

a hypothesis about the Truth,

is

tight, logical structure.

deduced

in chapter

1

.

The

skeleton,

This hypothesis,

which involves the idea that the knowledge of God must be given through a divine self-revelation,

is

poetically concretized in chapter 2

by imagining the revelation as an incarnation. In chapter 3 the content of the hypothesis

is

illuminated by contrasting

it

with rational, philo-

sophical approaches to the knowledge of God. In chapters 4 and

5,

the

implications of the hypothesis for the question of how a person becomes a disciple of the incarnate to the role historical

The whole

God

are explained, specifically with respect

knowledge plays and does not play

in the process.

thing follows quite closely some of the central teachings of

Christianity;

one could hardly imagine anyone "inventing" such a

tale

outside of a culture familiar with Christianity.

IRONY AND MORE IRONY In Concluding Unscientific Postscript, Johannes Climacus has an extended

footnote giving his reaction to a review of Fragments that appeared in a

German

a "plot

theological periodical. Climacus says that the review gives

summary" of the book

that

is

generally accurate but nevertheless

gives "as misleading

an impression of the book

The

is

reason for this

no

forwardly, with

whole

project.

An

as

is

possible to give."^

simply that the review takes the book straight-

real appreciation of the irony that

pervades the

attentive reader of Fragments will hardly need this

external reminder from Climacus in order to see that something funny is

going on. Clues abound within the text of Fragments

The most who appears

itself.

obvious clues are the "dialogues" with an interlocutor

frequently in the text, particularly at the ends of chapters.

An

Ironicd

For example, at the end of chapter

Thou^ 1

Eyperivnent

17

/

the interlocutor shows up and

berates Climacus for undertaking the ludicrous project of inventing

something that

is

already well

known. Climacus

in the afternoon exhibited for a fee a

ram that

like "the

is

in the

On

could see free of charge, grazing in an open pasture. the irony

which

simply that

is

CHmacus

Danish Lutheran

his

man who

morning anyone the surface

pretending to invent something

is

and catechized

readers, all baptized

children, were already intensely familiar with,

namely Christianity.

as

No

attentive reader could accept the idea that the concepts Climacus

explores in his thought-project, concepts such as an incarnate

who air.

God

functions as Savior and Redeemer, were simply pulled out of the

Even

at the surface level, therefore,

Climacus

is

pulling our leg.

However, the irony goes deeper than the extended joke of pretending to invent something that

well

is

him

exploration of his experiment leads

experiment

That

is

to everyone. Climacus'

to the conclusion that his

one that no mere human being could have thought

up.

the very content of the hypothesis that he pretends to be

is,

inventing has as one of

essential features the impossibility of

its

invention by any mere human!

by a

known

human

Any

its

concept that could be invented

being essentially presupposes the Socratic view that the

potential to discover the Truth

lies

within

human

The

nature.

alter-

native Climacus claims to be inventing presupposes that the capacity for the

Truth

is

lacking in

human nature and must be

brought to

human

beings by the god. Climacus argues (how plausibly remains to be de-

termined) that this story

is

cepts and could only have

Even since

rooted in a divine revelation, not in

is

ing" something well

being."'

he

'

is

philosophizing.

to

all,

but because, in Climacus'

own words, human

myself something that belongs to no

Of course Climacus' is

human

angry with Climacus not merely for "invent-

known

falsely attribute to

that

the god himself.

argument on Climacus' part may be part of his borrowing,

Thus, the interlocutor

"I

one that employs non-Socratic con-

so clearly reflects the traditional Christian claim that Chris-

it

tianity

this

itself

come from

cheerful admission of his plagiarism shows

merely teasing his reader, not seriously attempting to claim

the God's story as his own.

The which

fact that the Fragtnents

a thought-experiment

is

is

a kind of extended ironical joke in

invented, \^'hose content

is

such that

18

/

PASSIONATE REASON

supposedly could not be invented,

it

we sketched

portrait

Even the

specific character of the joke reflects the distinctive character

of the humorist as Climacus defines

he

says,

most

him

in Postscript.

always "revokes" or "calls back" his

serious,

own

his

certainly consistent with the

is

of Climacus as a humorist in the last chapter.

he

pulls the rug out

efforts. Just

from under our

feet

The humorist, when he seems

by undermining

In a similar way, in Fragments Climacus seems to

efforts.

develop a thought-experiment that

nullifies itself, at least as a

thought-

experiment.

would, however, be very rash to take the humoristic character

It

of Fragments as nullifying any serious philosophical purpose. Climacus

himself says in Postscript that that where irony

"it

is

the project as a whole

is

who assume The fact that

only assistant professors

present, seriousness

is

is

excluded."^^

ironical does not entail that particular argu-

ments within the project

are not

sound or intended

as sound.

The

conceptual distinctions Climacus draws between Christian and Socratic

ways of thinking, if

we

for

example,

may be

quite sound and important, even

recognize that they are presented to us in a jesting form.

Thus

our recognition of the ironical form of the book as a whole by no

from the philosophical task of examining and think-

means exempts

us

ing through

arguments and claims, even though we recognize that

at times

to

its

Climacus may be pulling our

examine the

leg.

We

shall therefore

proceed

"details" of the jest.

THE TITLE PAGE The

original title page of Philosophical Fragments,

reproduced on page

1

of the

Hong

contains several things worth noticing. First there

Philosophiske Smuler eller or

A

itself

whose content

is

translation in Kierkegaard's Writings, is

the

title

itself:

En Smule Philosophi (Philosophical Fragments The notion of a fragment of philosophy

Fragment of Philosophy).

has a humoristic ring, or at least

it

did in Kierkegaard's day, as

Hegelian philosophers of the time had practically identified philosophy with systematic thinking.

Danish term Smuler

would

suggest.

It is

is

As many commentators have

noted, the

actually lighter than the English "fragments"

an everyday word, not a philosophical term, but

a

An homed word a person would use

sophical Bits or Philosophical Scraps

By

in

To

his very title, then,

is

smule

Climacus wishes to distance his philosophical

little

fairly recently

and we

become popular

doubt that Hegelianism, particularly

represented by Danish theological Hegelians, target of Fragments,

lille

translate the title as Philo-

would not therefore be inappropriate.

from the Hegelianism which had

Denmark. There

19

/

dinner table to ask for "en

at the

more) of something.

mere'' (a little bit

efforts

TTiought Experiment

will take

is

as

a primary polemical

due notice of the implicit criticisms

of this type of view at appropriate places.

It

would, however, be a great

mistake to overemphasize the particular historical circumstances in

which

Philosophical Fragments

was written. The book deals with philo-

sophical problems and questions that have a perennial importance, and if

Hegelians are attacked, they are attacked for holding views which

are very

common among

theologians and philosophers today as well.

That the book does deal with can also be gleaned from the questions:

point?

"Can an

issues of abiding philosophical interest

title

which poses three

page,

How can such a starting-point have more than historical interest?

Can one

build one's eternal happiness

on

historical

knowledge?"

inappropriate to try to answer these questions at the outset,

It is

or to suggest Climacus' answers to them, or even to say

answers. However, tions

related

eternal consciousness have an historical starting-

mean,

if

we

crucial issue here religions

we must have some

are to read the is

initial

book with

if

he has

sense of what the ques-

insight. It

is

clear that the

that of the relation between history and what

have called salvation. Most of the world's great

many

religions,

though they may be rooted in history in the sense that they may trace their origins to the teachings

in the

and

life

of a historical founder, do not

end base the salvation of humans on any

Rather, salvation

is

of practices that have a timeless quality about them.

who

historical events.

gained through adherence to a teaching and/or set

realizes his unity

The devout Hindu

with the Divine and understands the Vedic

teaching "That Art Thou," whether this

is

achieved through yogic

exercise or philosophical contemplation, has gained

an insight into a

The devout Buddhist

truth

which has no

who

has gained release from suffering by attaining selflessness has

historical datedness about

similarly realized a state of being

it.

which seems equally relevant to any

20

PASSIONATE REASON

/

No

historical period.

particular historical facts about the

Buddha seem

an achievement.

to be necessary conditions for such

Traditional Christianity seems markedly different from such religions.^^

According to Christianity the salvation of human beings depends

on the

life,

Nazareth,

some

death, and resurrection of a historical figure, Jesus of

who

is

God

incarnate.

tice of life to

be imitated, but

historical figure.

rootage,

many

is

How

dependent on one's relation to an

foundation as a prob-

this historical

could the eternal destiny of

events at a particular place and time?

little

not premised on

is

essentially timeless prac-

philosophers and theologians in the nineteenth century,

depend on one's awareness of seems

on some

Though many Christians have celebrated this historical

and perhaps even more today, see lem.

Here salvation

ahistorical doctrine, or merely

human

beings be decided by

How could one's eternal salvation

a few contingent historical facts?

There

doubt that such worries are one of the factors contributing

behind these

tradi-

and discover a

"Jesus

to the continuing attempts by theologians to get

tional Christian claims about Jesus as the Christ

of history"

who

religions.^"*

These embarrassing claims about

is

more

could be eliminated

and teachers of other great

like the founders

Jesus as

God

incarnate

could be shown that they were creations of

if it

the early church which actually

falsify

the meaning of Jesus'

life. If,

for

example, Jesus essentially offered us a teaching about our relationship to

God, or perhaps represented

for us a lifestyle characterized

by

self-

giving love, and this teaching and/or lifestyle turns out to be the key

would be no need

to salvation, then there

that Jesus was uniquely

God,

a claim that

for the traditional claim

a deep stumbling-block to

is

those looking for ways to see the great world religions as compatible

with each other.

The

first

of the three questions

on the

title

consciousness have an historical starting-point?" tal

to the others.

The

page, is

"Can an

logically

eternal

fimdamen-

expression "eternal consciousness" here

preliminary clue to what

is

is

a

termed in the text the possession of the

Truth. Climacus simply assumes that hum.an beings are seeking this

Truth or "eternal consciousness," whatever

it is.

An

eternal conscious-

ness seems a very close cousin to what Christianity has termed eternal life,

but

sense.

it

must be taken

in Philosophical Fragments in a

more formal

An eternal consciousness is the fulfillment of my goal as a human

An being, and Climacus takes

goods.

However the

would doubtless different ways, as to

horded TTiowg^ Experiment

for granted that this

it

21

/

not simply temporal

is

Socratic view and

CUmacus' alternative hypothesis

specify the content of

an eternal consciousness in very

which

in turn leads to opposing answers to the question

whether such an eternal consciousness could have an

historical

starting-point.

The

question essentially

termed salvation, eternal

is

whether what

religions

or nirvana

something that can be

life,

is

moment, or

acquired (or lost) in time. Could one particular

moments, have eternal significance

for a person?

had proposed that

tian orthodoxy

person's decisions in this

life

set of

Old-fashioned Chris-

A

dramatic manner.

did, in a

it

have variously

with respect to Jesus of Nazareth could

have the consequences of eternal blessedness or eternal damnation.

Such a view makes eternal destiny

is

history decisive in

own

decided by her

historical decisions in turn revolve

two

respects.

An

individual's

historical decisions,

around an historical

and those

figure, Jesus of

Nazareth.

The second more than

of the questions

historical interest?")

affirmative answer to the

first

("How can such is

question

could be decisive with respect to

How

How

could

I

come

merely as another historical

possible.

Assuming that

how

salvation,

history

could this be so?

to view a particular historical figure not

figure,

answer to the crucial question

human being? The last of the

ones that precede possible for

my

role

Though

I

I

am

to

and that an

is

historical event or

historical interest for

me,

knowledge play in the acquisition of

this

Would

I

need

what kind of

get

historical starting-point

have more than merely

historical

if so,

and how would

how

Assuming that an

eternal consciousness?

or figure, and

as to

eternal consciousness

would

my life and the fulfill my destiny as

but as the center of

three questions again presupposes answers to the it.

figure could therefore

what

my

is

have

how an

could an event at a particular place and time have eternal con-

sequences?

a

a starting-point

really just the question as to

historical

historical

knowledge of the event

knowledge would

I

need

it?

these questions obviously are pertinent ones for Christian

theologians, they are

all

properly philosophical ones. That

not presuppose the truth of Christianity or

its

revelation.

is,

they do

They

are

22

PASSIONATE REASON

/

questions that are logically prior to embarking

on

a quest for the

an apologetic attempt to prove the truth of the

historical Jesus, or

gospels, or a critical attempt to

demolish the gospels as a basis

for faith.

Before embarking on these historical enterprises, Climacus wishes to ask precisely what one might be able in principle to accomplish through

such historical research, by looking at the possible ways salvation might be dependent on history or independent of Besides the

of course, the

title itself

name

and the questions, the

on Johannes Climacus, and

The

this point. is

title

page also contains,

of the author, Johannes Climacus, and as ''Udgiver''

(editor or publisher), S. Kierkegaard.

length

it.

1

have already commented

will say

inclusion of Kierkegaard's

some

at

nothing more about him at

own name on

the

title

page

doubtless significant, since Kierkegaard did not do this with any of

the pseudonymous books which precede Philosophical Fragments. Kierkegaard's

name

appears in a similar way

Unscientific Postscript,

on the

title

and the significance of the

page of Concluding

fact

is

noted when

Kierkegaard himself says in The Point of View that the inclusion of his

name

in this

and have a

way

in Postscript was a "hint, for those

that sort of thing. "^^

flair for

My own

who worry

conviction

the relationship between Climacus and Kierkegaard himself

but complex one. However, putting Kierkegaard's

name on

page as editor by no means implies that the pseudonym

mask

for

Kierkegaard himself.

Climacus sees things

1

think

it

is

as Kierkegaard himself

fair to

is

is

about that

is

a close

the

title

simply a

say that Johannes

would see them

Kier-

if

kegaard were not a Christian. This means that what Climacus says

about Christianity but

it is still

of the

life

is

usually correct, from Kierkegaard's perspective,

the view of an outsider. This, in turn, means that

much

of faith necessarily remains opaque to Climacus.

THE MOTTO The motto wed."

It is

since

it

is

of Philosophical Fragments

"Better well hanged than

ill-

taken, loosely and several times removed, from Shakespeare, a

Danish translation of the German translation of a

from Twelfth Night. at the

is

^'^

beginning of

line

Climacus himself jestingly comments on the motto Postscript

by noting that the "well hanged author"

— An

honied TTiought Experiment

/

23

of Fragments has been "left hanging." However, "better well hanged

than by an unhappy marriage to be made a systematic in-law of the

whole world. "^^ Niels Thulstrup, in his "Commentary," takes this to be an allusion

H. A. Nielsen takes exception to

to being crucified with Christ.

Thulstrup's claim,

on the grounds

who

kind of reader,"

is

that this reading caters to "the

wrong

curious about the opinions of Climacus.^° Pre-

sumably, Nielsen thinks that Thulstrup's reading implies that Climacus is

really a "closet Christian,"

seems to be an attempt to

and Nielsen properly objects that

this

the sort of curiosity which

satisfy precisely

Climacus himself politely asks the reader not to indulge. Nielsen suggests that the motto

the book

is

a condensed form of the preface,

whose message

is

that

better left hanging than brought into union with systematic

is

philosophy. It

seems to

me

that Nielsen has accurately captured the obvious

meaning of the comment about the Motto is

jesting in this

own

And

motto.

suggestiveness,

meaning

comment, not attempting

in Postscript, but

Climacus

a definitive exegesis of his

of course part of the power of a literary quote

and

I

see

in Climacus'

no reason

mind

is

its

was one "correct"

to think that there

(or Kierkegaard's, for that matter).

When

read more deeply, one can see the motto as concerned with Christianity, as

Thulstrup thought, without in any way violating the standpoint of

Climacus

One

as

non-Christian philosophical observer.

main concerns

of Climacus'

in the

book

to

is

communicate

to his

knowledgeable readers some reminders about what Christianity

really

is,

a task he accomplishes without so

once

Christianity, except

at the very

wish to attack Christianity or to defend standing of

human

it.

As we

shall see,

reaction to Christianity

one of is

much

as

even mentioning

end of the book. He does not it,

his

to find

but to increase our under-

main

it

theses

offensive.

is

As

that a natural a consequence

of this, well-intentioned "defenders" of Christianity are constantly

tempted to

alter Christianity in

by reinterpreting categories.

its

meaning

it

is,

in terms of

as to eliminate this offense,

more acceptable philosophical

Climacus himself finds such alteration jobs offensive. From

his perspective, honesty

what

such a way

whether

it

demands

that

one allow Christianity to be

be offensive or not. So, without in any way

embracing or committing himself to Christianity, he can say that

24

PASSIONATE REASON

/

Christian faith

better off

is

And

philosophy.

hanged than married

distance from systematic philosophy himself,

Climacus to apply the motto to himself "left

off to

of course, as a humoristic thinker

hanging" than married

ments, especially

if

his task

off to is

it

as well.

contemporary

who

keeps his

quite proper for

is

He

too

is

better off

contemporary philosophical move-

in part to dispel confusions traceable to

those philosophical movements.

THE PREFACE The

preface

what

most

the section of Philosophical Fragments where the person-

visible

is

He

is

make

and

not,

not primarily a scholar

is

and textual learning. He to

most

is

clearly displayed. Paradoxically,

precisely the elusiveness of Johannes.

what Johannes

us

tells

do.

is

is

Johannes Climacus

ality of

is

it tells

who

us

what he

The

preface

not trying to

is

wishes to exhibit his historical

not a systematic philosopher

a contribution to the developing (in

who

wishes

Denmark) Hegelian

much jesting and banter about those philosophers who have proclaimed a new era in philosophy, jesting which is directed movement. There

against H. L.

is

Martensen and

Danish Hegelian followers, rather than

his

against Hegel himself. Climacus himself will have nothing to this world-historical self-importance.

He

do with

writes for personal reasons,

modestly and perhaps humoristically describing himself as a "loafer,"

who

has no great justification for his idleness.

As

an overview of

for

nothing

at

As

all.

for that matter,

perspective, Climacus offers us

We

are,

Climacus' opinions, something

1

would describe

I

He

have

appears."

as a

model of how the

own

life,

is

that the

and cannot therefore be answered by reference is,

he

says, to stake his

repeats

and underlines the seriousness of

my

which

life,

book

which must be asked by an individual

to learning. His only contribution to thought

"All

an opmion about

book should be approached. Climacus hints

about his or her

life.^'

us his "opinion" or, as

however, given something other than

deals with very personal questions,

own

tell

whether he has any such thing

the matters discussed.

issues in the

own

his

already noted, he will not

1

this

promptly stake every time a

remark:

difficulty

An

Irordcd Thongfit Experiment

/

25

In coyly offering us a glimpse, not of his convictions, but of

what one might term

his

Climacus deepens and "eternal consciousness"

Truth" in chapter

1.

methodology

alters

for

approaching the problems,

our understanding of what he means by

on the

title

His concern

is

page and what he will term "the

not merely with a concept which

has some importance in the history of religion or some other scholarly

human being naturally shows toward the meaning of her own life. Like other human beings, I will live a relatively short period here on earth. What is the purpose and meaning of this short period? Does my life have any deeper significance, endeavor, but with the very personal concern a

a significance It is

which transcends death

the fact that

consciousness"

own "dancing of death. issues,

its

I

will die

which

itself?

gives the question of

an "eternal

poignancy. Climacus hints at this by noting that his

partner" in thinking through his project

is

the thought

Bringing death into the picture not only personalizes the

but makes

appropriate.

it

clear that disinterested contemplation

may not be

Death approaches, and the luxury of detachment may not

be open to the thoughtful reader. Climacus will not take any other person as "dancing partner," neither as objective authority nor devoted disciple.

Since no one else can die for me, no one else can decide the

meaning of

life

for

me

either.

perspective from

which Climacus

which he hopes

to be read.

It

is

crucial to see that this

writes,

and

it is

is

the

the perspective from

CHAPTER

3 CONSTRUCTING AN ALTERNATIVE TO THE SOCRATIC VIEW OF "THE TRUTH"

In chapter

1

of Phibsophical Fragments, Johannes Climacus begins his

experiment in earnest. The project, is

it

will

be recalled,

is

to see

if

there

any alternative to what he terms the Socratic view of the Truth and

how

the Truth

is

learned.

assumption that the Truth

The is

Socratic view

is

characterized as the

already present within each person, so

The teacher on this view will only who helps the learner discover his or her own self-sufficiency. The moment at which this self-realization occurs thus has no essential importance, for the moment at which I acquire the Truth is also the moment I realize that I did not acquire it, but that

it

only needs to be recollected.

be an occasion, a midwife

have always possessed

With

alternative view, in

more

it.

this baseline firmly in

which

detail, that the

mind, Climacus seeks to create an

postulates, as

moment

is

we have noted and

shall explore

all-important, that the learner lacks

the Truth, and that he must be given the Truth by a teacher the god.

We

suspicious of Climacus' procedure. In chapter 2

of Climacus

is

not what

one that implies is

its

ironical through It

who

is

have already seen that we have plenty of reason to be

it

own

I

noted that

this creation

appears to be, since the invention

impossibility as

is

a curious

an invention. Climacus' work

and through.

would, however, be churlish and self-defeating to allow this

realization to block us

from playing along with Climacus' game. In

order for the irony to have a beneficial effect

we must allow at least, as

on

us, if that

be possible,

ourselves to be taken in and take his invention, initially

what

it

appears to be. Otherwise,

we block

ourselves from

An Akemadve a close reading of the

View of "The Truth"

to the Socratic

book

at all

27

/

and have no hope of seeing whether

the irony has a serious point, and what that point might be. therefore play along

and see how

the

far

We

shall

game can be pushed.

THE TRUTH Chapter

"To what extent can the Truth

begins with the question

1

be learned?" This question

Climacus mean by

raises for us the prior one:

'the Truth'?"

argument, that this

I

claimed in chapter

in epistemological discussions. Contrary to suggest. Fragments

is

though

ness"

what Climacus

on the

truths,

title

question

how we

gain

such as necessary truths or em-

at points.

now and then and The Truth here is closer to

have usually termed salvation, and

religions

related to

initial

"truth"

touches on such questions

it

even assumes answers to them

what

what the

does

much

no means

mean by

not really a book about

knowledge of various kinds of pirical truths,

"What

without

a special concept in the book, by

is

equivalent in meaning to what philosophers usually

might

2,

calls

and an "eternal happiness"

page,

it

is

also closely

the attainment of an "eternal consciousat other places in

the book.

What

justification

Part of the justification

The book

is

in

perspectives,

is

is

there for this unusual

of the truth takes

human

even bases

his

not perverse usage?

one sense an extended contrast of Platonic and Christian

and the question with which

Platonic question. In Plato's

highest

if

the grounding of the book in Platonic thought.

task

on is

own thought,

it

begins

it is

is

of course a central

fair to say

that knowledge

religious significance. Plato assumes that our

to gain true knowledge, and, as

own argument

Climacus notes,

for the immortality of the soul

on the

ability of the soul to grasp eternal truths.'

Hence Climacus'

Truth"

and extension of the sense

is

in part simply a continuation

"truth" takes Still,

on

use of "the

in Plato.

one may well ask about

Plato's usage here, too.

justification for equating salvation

with knowing truth

The deeper lies

in the

made by many religions as well as by Plato, that salvation does in the end amount to possessing some kind of insight, some awareness of Absolute or Ultimate Truth. Of assumption, not uncontroversial but

28

PASSIONATE REASON

/

course, this

must not be taken simply

as

knowing the tmth of some

proposition. For example, Christian thinkers have

human good

the ultimate

commonly

described

knowing God, and such knowledge

as

certainly thought of as a grasping or encounter with truth.

is

Hindu

thinkers have described salvation as involving an understanding of the truth that

I

am one

with

have described nirvana

God

or Absolute Reality. Buddhist thinkers

an understanding of the truth about

as requiring

the illusory nature of the self as an entity and the necessity to escape

from the realm of

desire. Therefore,

syncratic to identify

to identify salvation with It

is

is

The

knowing a

for this reason that

article seriously,

he

though

may be somewhat

and

we must

when Climacus

realize that

it is

not at

all

idio-

unusual

special kind of truth.

think that

I

talks

take the definite

about "the Truth"

not talking about truth in general, but a special kind of truth. nature of this truth will be conceived differently by different

religious perspectives, but in all cases

that

it

knowing truth with salvation,

is

essential for

humans

have

to

of salvation. This sense of the Truth

specifies

it

is

taken up again in the

is

it is

talking,

such truth would

essential for a

mean

is

human

Postscript

an important footnote

not about truth in general,

but the kind of truth he calls "essential truth. "^ Essential truth the truth which

it

in order to obtain the equivalent

in the discussion of "truth as subjectivity." In

here Climacus explains that he

whatever truth

being to have.

is

The

simply lack of

a lack of humanness.

This becomes very clear in discussing the alternative hypothesis to the Platonic view of the Truth.

(I

henceforth refer to this

will

alter-

native hypothesis, the one with a suspicious resemblance to Christianity, as the

B

B hypothesis must Truth. The learner must,

hypothesis.) Climacus claims that the

be one which sees the learner

as lacking the

however, have had the condition for understanding the Truth time; otherwise he "would have been merely an animal,

who with

the condition gave

being for the

We

first

at

one

and that teacher a

human

as that

which

him the Truth would make him

time."^

can also discern from

this sense of the

Truth

makes a person human one of the reasons Climacus does not consider the question as to whether salvation beings.

One might

saying that

it

is

is

a real possibility for

human

imagine a secular thinker objecting to Climacus by

possible that salvation

is

not attainable for humans,

An

Altemative to the Socradc View of "The Truth"

and that we should resign ourselves to satisfying

may be

is

if

the objection

then Climacus' answer

we

is

fulfilling

is

and

is

possible for

a

is

telos

satisfying that

even

to

truly

human possible.

is

of course, and

this,

clearly does make."^

human

humans ought

to saying that salvation in this sense

willing to say

objector

will consider later in this chapter.

whether human beings can be

willing to say that there

that

The

To

think, something like this:

I

whether salvation in any sense to question

can.

to the concept of salvation in any form,

is

is,

an assumption he

life,

a real issue, one that

However,

we

challenging the assumption of Climacus that

salvation consists in eternal

This

and now,

living in the here

our finite and relative wants as well as

in this case

29

/

we

beings

question is

simply

human. Anyone who life,

some way of

to enjoy,

is

life

committed

Not everyone

will

case for giving up the concept of salvation in any form. However, is

clearly the case that

as secular

be

shall presently consider the it

even many thinkers who think of themselves

humanists do accept such a concept of salvation.

WHAT VIEWS SHOULD

BE

UNDERSTOOD

AS "SOCRATIC"? This broad understanding of the Truth as the possession of whatever that

it is

human

a person truly

gives us a broad perspective as

on what Climacus means by the Socratic view. Since

well esis

makes

is

view,

constructed solely it is

on the

basis of

its

his

B hypoth-

difference from the Socratic

obviously crucial to gain a clear understanding of what that

view represents. Since the Socratic view

somewhat Platonic

sentative of the Socratic view to define

is

Socrates, the

an altemative

is

defined in terms of the views of a

most obvious candidate

for a repre-

philosophical idealism. Climacus wishes

to idealism

which resembles Christianity

in

order to clearly remind people of the logical differences between the two.

The

tianity

point of course

and Platonism per

is

not to show the difference between Chris-

se,

but to emphasize the differences between

Christianity and nineteenth century idealism, represented by Schelling

and Hegel. The reminder was needed century idealism, especially in

its

precisely because nineteenth

right-wing Hegelian form, claimed to

30

PASSIONATE REASON

/

The barbed "moral" at the end of the book makes this when one nevertheless says essentially

be Christian. clear:

"But to go beyond Socrates

the same thing as he, only not nearly so well Socratic."^ Christianity,

Climacus

the Socratic, though he

is

mean

that

it

is

more

true.



that, at least,

However,

to claim to be Christian

essentially repeating the Socratic,

It is

is

candidate for a representative of the Socratic view,

and "go

is

neither

the most obvious it

is

by no means

the Truth means the possession of whatever

the only one.

If

makes

human, then the Socratic view

Hinduism, which assume that the capacity

human

it

that

is

in Philosophical Fragments

must be taken very broadly indeed. Religions such

as

Buddhism and

for the realization of the

Truth

is

falling

under the designation. Robert Roberts, in his book

present within

not

simply muddled.

However, though nineteenth-century idealism

us truly

is

does indisputably "go beyond"

careful to add that this does not necessarily

beyond" the Socratic, while Socratic nor Christian.

says,

beings, certainly

must be regarded

as

Faith, Reason,

and History, has convincingly argued that even such Christian theologians as Schleiermacher, Bultmann, as Socratic thinkers,

inasmuch

and John Cobb must be regarded

as they reduce Jesus in the

and deny that human beings

role of Socratic teacher

error in the radical sense of Climacus.^ Jesus for

the

evocation

of

of

sense

"the

may be

absolute

end

to the

are essentially in

a powerful vehicle

dependence"

in

Schleiermacher's sense, or Bultmann's sense of radical openness to the future

which constitutes authenticity, or he may be a powerful source

for creative transformation in

Cobb's sense. However, there

is

nothing

about Jesus in such views which makes Jesus uniquely necessary for

such things. Perhaps the concept of the Socratic here can even be extended to purely secular thinkers such as a Carl Sagan, or avowedly this-worldly.

philosophers such as Karl Marx. Insofar as a secular humanist has a

concept of truly

human

for achieving this

existence,

and a conviction that the capacity

kind of existence

the humanistic view seems Socratic. thinks this capacity

possessed by

is

than individually, and

this

not envision. However, a small extension.

What

may be

if it

all

is

is

present within

It is

beings,

true that a thinker like

human

Marx

beings collectively rather

a perspective

an extension of

these views

human

which Climacus does

his concept,

it

is

only

— Platonism, Hegelianism, Hin-

An

Akemative

Buddhism,

duism,

—have

to the Socratic

some

versions

View of of

''The Truth"

31

/

and

Christianity,

secular

common is a conviction that the capacity for achieving truly human existence is possessed by human beings and does

humanism

in

not need to be brought to humans by a teacher

who

a divine re-

is

creator of the individual.

WHY ASSUME THAT THE TRUTH CAN

BE REALIZED?

Philosophical Fragments constructs a perspective

be possessed by

how

as to

human

the Truth

attainable at

all

beings and compares gained. But

is

it

on how the Truth can with the Socratic view

why assume

that the Truth

is

human beings? Why assume that salvation is possible,

by

either Socratically or through Christianity? Actually,

Climacus makes any such assumptions; however,

it is it

not clear that

is

true that

he

appears to ignore the alternative possibilities they pose for both the Socratic and his Christian-like perspective.

Climacus anyone

who

assumes that such a state can be realized, perspective. Nevertheless,

one would be willing is

it is

have argued that

falls

under the Socratic

to accept these

two notions. The idea that there flies

in the face of the

widespread relativism endemic to western culture, including that is

And

those

all

who would

accept a normative sense of what

were meant to be have any hope that such a advice of a

Camus

universe

one prominent example of such

is

to reject

striking that

It is

not,

I

state

is

humans The

attainable.

hope and embrace the despair of an absurd a view.^

Climacus gives no argument against such a view.

In fact, he simply gives is

rela-

identified with popular conceptions of "existentialism."

tivism that

not

for

certainly the case today that not every-

normative concept of true humanness

a

I

has a normative concept of true humanness, and

it

no consideration

at

all.

The

reason for this

think, that such a contemporary view was utterly foreign to

him. Certainly, his creator Kierkegaard was not ignorant of such despair, since he created a striking illustration of

it

in Either/Or

I.

Rather,

suspect that Climacus does not address such a view because

ponent does not need and

The

will

its

I

pro-

not be helped by philosophical reflection.

despairer needs hope; he needs encouragement.

He

needs what

32

PASSIONATE REASON

/

Climacus

calls

in Postscript inwardness or subjectivity.

helped to recognize that he

He must

be

an existing being, not identical with

is

Pure Thought. Perhaps he needs therapy. His failings are in any case

not cognitive or intellectual.

Climacus

own

"puts his

time a difficulty appears. From his standpoint,

whether the goal of existence can be achieved, or whether there

to ask is

at stake" every

life

who

writing as an existential thinker, one

is

even a

goal,

to opt out of

is

some proof that

sleeve

life

It is

life.

not that Climacus has up his

has a goal and that

it

can be attained.

Rather, he puts aside this option because demanding such a proof would life which may be suitable for a who is Pure Thought, but which is inappropriate for an existing human being. An analogy may be helpful here. It is often the case, when I play

presuppose a detached perspective on

being

bridge, that in attempting to

only succeed a case

if

one of

my

must play the hand

I

have the

card.

I

do

so,

make

as

I

am

I

I

discover that

I

can

opponent does indeed

have proof that

this

it is

a player,

possible for

me

what

I

need

not some argument about the possibility of winning. Rather,

I

need

I

must assume that

more about the game.

to care

game and my own In a similar

possible. If

it is

I

I

do not do

opponent

As

already in the game.

do not have the luxury of musing about whether

to win. is

that particular

if

not because

does have the card, but because I

a contract

opponents holds a particular card. In such

so,

need to understand the point of the

role in the particular situation in

way Johannes Climacus

is

which

I

find myself.

writing as a person

who

is

game of life and who understands that it is not a game like bridge from which one can abstain and assume the role of kibitzer. He is writing to people like himself who are seeking to become fully human in the

and are committed to that possibility is

he

goal.

That the quest

ignores, not because

it

is

a hopeless

one

can be proven that such

is

a

futility

mistaken, but because the existential passion of the individual rules

such a view out of consideration.

One

further possible objection remains, and that concerns the

assumption Climacus seems to make that the possession of the Truth is

equivalent to the possession of eternal

What

justification does

on the

title

page make

he have it

for

clear that

life

or an eternal consciousness.

such an assumption?

The

questions

Climacus does seem to make such

An

Alternative to the Soaatic

an assumption, and

at times

knowing the truth

B

not surprising for the

of "The Truth."

33

/

he makes others equally bold. For example,

he seems to assume that both hypothesis,

Vkw

for his

B

equivalent to knowing God. This

is

view and

for the Socratic is

hypothesis, since

on

this view, the

Truth must

be given to the learner by the God, but Climacus also says that the

who

Socratic thinker,

has the condition for knowing the Truth within

God

himself, thinks that

exists,

"since he himself exists (er

God

Socratic self-knowledge involves a knowledge of

To

ti/)."^

as well.

conceive of knowing the Truth as equivalent to knowing

God

and possessing an eternal consciousness would seem to commit Climacus to a fairly specific concept of salvation,

defend. However,

I

think there

than meets the eye. specific

meaning

We

must

is

one that he certainly does not

less to

resist

Climacus' assumptions here

much

the temptation to read in

to the concepts of God

and the eternal when Climacus

uses these in the context of the Socratic view. Certainly

we must not

read these concepts as having any recognizable Christian meaning.

Climacus

is

perhaps assuming that true humanness requires a relation-

"God"

ship to something ultimate and absolute, but the concept of

employed here evidently must be vague and formal enough to be satisfied

by Plato's "Form of the Good."

Climacus does seem to assume that true humanness requires an answer to the threat of meaninglessness posed by death and the shortlived character of all

human achievements, but such an assumption Humans have always struggled to see their

seems reasonable enough. lives as

grave,

having some significance and meaning that

and Climacus seems to take

component of knowing the Truth means

clear that this

tality,

though such a view

problem of death

it

will outlast the

for granted that this will

in his sense.

However,

it

is

be a

by no

must be taken in the sense of individual immoris

certainly

one prominent answer

in the history of religious

to the

and philosophical thought.

In the Postscript Climacus does raise the problem of the individual's

happiness to the forefront of existential thinking, and he perspectives

on immortality which promise only

abstract immortality of impersonal thought.

perspectives

Hegelians

view

is

critical of

participation in the

However, these

are the

on immortality which Climacus regarded the contemporary

who were

as holding.

the most prominent illustrations of the Socratic

34

PASSIONATE REASON

/

Interpreted in such a minimal way,

Truth with eternal

in connecting the

think that Climacus' activity

I

life

and the knowledge of God

requires us to restrict the range of the Socratic view only to a slight

Many

degree.

thing

secular views will

qualify

still

on the grounds

that some-

regarded as ultimate and absolute, and some way of giving

is still

the individual's

life

provided. Those

who

a

meaning that can be

are unwilling to

not addressed in the book. Like the

said to be eternal

make such assumptions

is

still

are simply

and pessimists discussed

relativists

above, they need a kind of passion and self-understanding that Climacus the ironical philosopher cannot provide. Perhaps Kierkegaard himself

would

refer

them

to Either/Or.

THE "DEDUCTION" OF THE

HYPOTHESIS

B

After briefly describing the Socratic viewpoint, with of ideas, centering

on the assumption

its

that the Truth

close-knit group

is

present within

humans and including the claim that on such an assumption the teacher and the moment of self-realization can have only vanishing significance, Climacus goes on to construct his alternative B hypothesis. The method of doing this

is,

on the

surface at least, very simple.

use of the basic principles of logic.

If

Climacus makes his alternative say not claim that the

how at

moment

things must be

any point

it

if

He

simply makes

the Socratic view says p, then p.

Beginning with the Socratic

has no essential significance, he

the

moment

is

to have

tries to see

essential significance. If

seems unclear what we are to

say, a refresher in

the

Socratic perspective will help us steer a straight path.

The Condition

of the Learner

Since the Socratic view postulated that the learner already had the

Truth prior to the moment of

self-realization, the

B

hypothesis must

B

assume that the learner lacks the Truth.

To

hypothesis from the Socratic view, one

must assume that the learner

clearly differentiate the

not only lacks the Truth, but also lacks the ability or "the condition" for acquiring the Truth.

view

is

not

Here

it

limited to a strictly

becomes even

clearer that the Socratic

Platonic system of thought.

To

say that

An

the learner possesses the Truth

something

View of

Alternative to the Socratic

''The Truth"

not necessarily a commitment to

is

the Platonic theory of recollection.

like

35

/

Any

system of

thought, Platonic or Aristotelian, religious or secular, which says that

humans

The Truth

Truth

possess the ability to gain the

who

learner

will qualify as Socratic.

thus lacks even the condition for acquiring the

He

described by Climacus as himself untruth.'^

is

not merely

is

own

lacking something he might acquire by accident, but his is

such that

it

is

impossible for

Climacus expresses

efforts.

learner

is

How

this

him

Truth by

to acquire the

by saying that

nature

his

own

on the B hypothesis the

an antagonist of the Truth. did the learner

come

to be in such a state?

Climacus says that

the learner's condition of error must be attributable to the learner him-

The

self.

had the condition

learner must originally have

for under-

standing the Truth; otherwise, given Climacus' sense of the Truth, the

human being. '° We would then how human beings could acquire the Truth, which B hypothesis is supposed to be all about, but about how hu-

learner would never have existed as a

be talking, not about is

what the

man

beings were originally created.

Truth (henceforth

just "the

If

the condition for attaining the

condition") has been

lost,

then Climacus

thinks there are three possibilities. Either the god himself took or

it

was

lost

it

away,

through some nonculpable accidental circumstances that

the learner found himself

in,

or else

it

was

lost

by the misuse of the

learner's freedom.

The

first

possibility

is

on the grounds

rejected

that

would be a

it

"contradiction" for the god to do such a thing. Presumably Climacus is

here simply assuming that whatever else

God may

be,

seen as good, as the source of our true humanness, and

be contradictory to think of

The second given,

possibility

which seems rather

is

God

God must

as the destroyer of that

flimsy,

is

humanness.

two reasons. The

rejected for

that

one could not

be

would thus

it

first

reason

lose the con-

dition by accident, for that would involve the "contradiction" that the inferior (the accidental)

dition). this,

to

It is

would have overcome the superior (the con-

not immediately obvious

since in our experience

overcome what

is

what

is

superior, at least

as to

what

is

contradictory about

inferior rather if

commonly seems

superior and inferior be given

any kind of moral sense, which they apparently bear here.

The second

reason given for rejecting the idea of losing the con-

^

36

PASSIONATE REASON

/

may

dition by accident seems weightier and in fact

Climacus

he

really has in

[the learner] could

mind by the have

he could be in

if

way

that

it

without

this state of loss

being due to himself, then he only possessed the condition acci-

its

dentally,

an

is

the condition in such a

lost

was not due to himself, and

explain what

seemingly flimsy reason. "If

first,

which

a contradiction, because the condition for the truth

is

essential condition."^

What Climacus

is

really

doing here

what some philosophers have

who

the Socrates of the Apology,

good man, either

what

in

life

is

He

human

is

agreeing with

can harm a

affirms that "nothing

or after death."'^

essentially matters in

rejecting the coherence of

called "moral luck."^^

life is

one

If

truly believes that

common

choices, then Socrates' principle, contrary to pears,

is

own

correct. Consistent with his

one free

sense as

ap-

it

principle, Socrates refused

he would not

to escape from prison, reasoning that

if

own

moral character, and

believes that moral character can only be corrupted by one's

be harmed by

truly

allowing himself to be unjustly executed, but that he would indeed

harm

his soul by illegally

Climacus

is

and immorally escaping from

committed

to

something

like this

prison.

by his claim that one

could not possess the condition "accidentally." His argument that

if

you

your control. However, this means that you never really had

I

seem

to

my environment think

it is

is

fair to

altered,

then in a

real sense

1

it

is

cidentally," or

The

is

who

it

I

when it.

an argument helps us see better what

say that such

unlikely to be convincing to anyone

humanness

lose

never really had

Climacus has in mind by the Truth and the condition

true

since

have the condition because

have been brought up in a favorable environment, but

but

it,

obviously thinking of the condition as something which must be

is

integrally linked to yourself. If

I

really

bottom a matter beyond

control, then your having the condition was at

he

is

the condition through circumstances beyond your

lose

who

for

its

attainment,

really thinks that

the sort of thing that could be gained or lost "acthinks that one's moral status

argument's chief value

Roberts might say, that

it

is,

as

someone

like

is

a matter of "luck."

H. A. Nielsen or Robert

improves our understanding of the "grammar"

of these concepts. If

my

loss

appear that

I

of the condition

is

due to

ought to be able to

my own

actions, then

remedy the damage

as well.

it

might

We

can

An

Akemadve

to the Socratic

View of

''The Trwt/i"

37

/

on the grounds

anticipate that Climacus will reject this claim,

that

if

the individual can remedy his unfreedom, then he really has the condition and

is still

in the Socratic position. Nevertheless,

Climacus must

defend the claim that this denial of the individual's power to overcome his

problem

is

logically consistent

due to the individual's

own

with the claim that the problem

defense by emphasizing the historical character of

human

say that a

power

undo or

to

being

is

free

is

freedom.

case through simple examples

one

side in a

to his

own

nature and subsequent



for

example, a knight

war and then finds he

He

his offer after his side loses.

moral condition, though they once

call sin.

It

is

who

notes

to recall

fair to

their

person has the power

once thrown.

it

by his

state of the learner as being in untruth

Climacus decides to

freely offers

no longer have power over did, just as a

no power

to throw a stone or not, but

who

his

not free to reverse

is

also appeals to Aristotle,

that depraved and virtuous people

own

fault

say that at this point the

whole enterprise of "inventing" the B hy-

ironical character of the

pothesis begins to

To

reverse the consequences of his misuse of freedom,

on freedom. In an extended footnote, Climacus makes

his services to

The

human

not to say that he always has the

even the consequences with regard limitations

is

misuse of freedom. Climacus makes this

show through rather

clearly.

The Teacher The teacher on the B hypothesis must be, The reason given for this is that in this

god.

as

we have

noted, the

case the teacher must

bring to the individual not only the Truth, but the condition for acquiring the Truth. Giving the condition amounts to a radical trans-

formation of the individual, and according to Climacus, "no being

capable of doing

is

this; if

to take place,

it is

it

human

must be done by

the god himself."'^

How a claim?

does Climacus It

is

know

tempting

this?

On

what

basis

can he make such

at this point to say that here the

ironical

character of the supposed logical deduction shows through, and that

Climacus of the here,

is

helping himself to presupposed Christian understandings

human situation. While I

do not think

it

is

I

don't find such a suggestion implausible

necessary to

make such

a

move

either.

We

38

PASSIONATE REASON

/

my

much content

into

concepts like "eternal consciousness" and "the god" in Climacus.

The

must

recall

about packing too

earlier caution

definite article in the "the god" quite clearly points to the identical

phrase used frequently by Plato. Climacus seems to use at times, certainly

not in a

says that in the Socratic

a knowledge of God.'^

more his

so,

view the self-knowledge of the individual

is

We could simply defend Climacus here by once

that

is

it

is

becomes a necessary

the assumption that the god

activities as a teacher?

The answer

2 of Fragments, but the in chapter

1.

as "the

Truth."

First of all,

that he

the teacher

The

to the discovery of is

and the

learner,

my own

even

possible,

is

this

if

Climacus

B

may

his

own,

hypothesis,

be,

it

even

if

is

a

"the one and only

it is

a vitally important

holds that the activity of the

come

he

is

this

to understand his

though the teacher makes

crucial to see that

he does not make

he lacks the condition,

one discovery on

necessary, because with respect

even though

necessary in order for the learner to is

with meaning

for the learner to "recall"

only an occasion, whoever he

shall see later that

point. In chapter 4

"the

is

untruth, "the Socratic principle applies:

analogy to the Socratic" in the

it

already provided

things possible.

"an occasion"

is

his

teacher does then function in this one respect

so to speak. Climacus says that this

We

is

B

given in chapter

is

the god and the learner

with the teacher's help, to make

the teacher

he carry out

will

fullness of time,"^^ a phrase as fraught

as a Socratic teacher,

able,

How

most part

main outline of the answer

The moment makes two

untruth.

is

an

indeed the teacher, as the

is

for the

The encounter between

moment," or "the

character. If that

totally transform

truth.

hypothesis requires, what will the god do?

god."'^

human

the source of a person's

then the claim that only the god could

On

but

quite loosely

concept of "the god." Perhaps for Climacus the god simply designates

individual

is

it

Christian manner. For example, he

treating his claim as a "grammatical remark," in this case about

whatever is

strictly

god

own

is

error,

this discovery

inevitable.

Secondly, in the moment, the teacher gives the condition, at least for

some

individuals. This

is

not a sure thing;

if it

were, the decisive

moment would be undermined. In the moment the can recollect his own error; "whether or not he is to go any

importance of the individual

further, the

moment must

decide."'^

Climacus does not

spell

out here

An how

Akemative

the condition

is

to the

Socradc View of "The Truth"

imparted; that

is

/

39

the task of the remainder of

the book.

The The

Relationship of Teacher and Learner

we

Socratic teacher had, as

for the learner.

The one who had

saw, only vanishing significance

best learned the Socratic lesson that

the Truth was within himself learned at the same time that he did not really

need Socrates. Climacus

must be

different.

the learner, the teacher reconciler.

The

"The

is

is

the god

no mere midwife, but

hypothesis things totally transforms

a savior, deliverer,

and

learner will never be able to forget such a teacher."^°

reason for this

is

clearly that

not acquired in a once and

is

B who

says that for the

Since the teacher

Climacus thinks that the condition

for all fashion,

but rather that the learner's

it is dependent on his relationship to the god. At this point Climacus' irony does begin to be a bit transparent. The relationship between the teacher who is the god and the learner is now described in a plethora of explicitly Christian terms.^' The

continued possession of

teacher's giving of the condition

is

a bestowal of

something to be held

in trust; the teacher will hold the learner accountable for this

hence

properly understood as a judge.

is

is

former

life

rebirth,

to

show

radical

and

change in the

described as a conversion, accompanied by a sorrow over his

learner

is

The

properly described as repentance.

and so on. So

far as

1

The outcome of the change

can see Climacus makes

little

attempt

that these qualities can be logically deduced simply by negating

the Socratic situation, though the logical clarity and power of the distinctions

made

earlier has a

tendency to beguile the reader

at this

point into continuing to play along with Climacus and to think he has

accomplished more by purely logical reflection than he really has. is

clear,

and what

relationship

still

seems sound in the "deduction"

is

What

that the

between teacher and learner Climacus describes seem to

be quite different from the relationship of Socratic teacher and learner.

CAN THIS THOUGHT'PROJECT Near the end of the

first

BE

THOUGHT?

chapter, Climacus poses a question practically

guaranteed to throw his reader for a loop. "But can what has been

40

PASSIONATE REASON

/

developed here be thought ^'^^ In possible to think

what he has

course, you just thought

and warns us not does not do issue of

One

just thought.

asking whether

is

is

tempted to

it

say,

is

"Of

Climacus anticipates such a hasty response

Such

to be in too big of a hurry.

full justice

who

it."

he

effect,

to the question, since

it

a hasty response

doesn't consider the

supposed to be doing the thinking, and what kind of

is

"thinking" has been going on.

Climacus himself agrees with the "of course" answer in one

However,

it

makes a great deal of difference who

is

respect.

doing the thinking:

who bom? The latter, of course, is an irrationality that cannot occur to anyone."" The obvious suggestion here is that it is only the person who has been reborn by receiving the condition from the god who can conceive of "This matter of being bom, can is

supposed to think

it

it

—one who

be thought? Sure,

bom

is

or

why

one who

not? But

not

is

the possibility Climacus has sketched. This, in tum, would imply that

Climacus himself must be seen

one who

Postscript as

The

one who adopts humor

as his incognito.^"*

suspicion that something like this

by the dialogue with an interlocutor

Climacus

is

interrupted by

own

thing off as his

question as to

invention which

who

is

going on seems confirmed

is

at the very close of the chapter.

someone who accuses him of passing someis

pleads guilty to the charge but uses

common knowledge." Climacus it

an occasion to pose the

as

the real author of the project. Perhaps the

interlocutor has himself invented the project? "Or, will

if

you then also deny that someone has invented

human

perhaps

as a Christian writer after all,

the description of the Christian he himself gives in

fits

being ?"^^ This question

is

I

am

that

is,

this,

some

evidently rhetorical, for Climacus

human

assumes the respondent will agree that no author: "In that case,

you deny

it,

being

is

having invented

just as close to

the true it

as

any

other person.""

Climacus moves from

this

claim that his project has no

author to an apparent claim that the project the project has for

it

is

true.

no human author] enchants me

human

"This oddity [that

to the highest degree,

provides a test for the correctness of the hypothesis and

onstrates

dem-

The ground for this is, I think, the fact that an essential B hypothesis is its origin in a divine teacher; to go beyond

it."^^

feature of the

the Socratic, Climacus says at one point,

is

to reach the concept of

.

An revelation.^^ it is is

Altemative

The

indeed a

fact that the

fact,

View of "The Truth"

to the Socratic

B

hypothesis

human

origin,

if

would appear to be a powerful confirmation that

it

is

indeed not a mere thought-project, but a revelation. Climacus seems

to be saying that the very possession

of the is

not of

41

/

B

hypothesis,

a guarantee of

its

which correspond,

One

truth.

and understanding of the ideas as

we have

of the truth of Christianity, or of at least

became

seen, to Christianity,

an a

writer has termed this

proof

priori

central idea, that

its

God

a man.^°

However,

"proof of the truth of Christianity

this

difficulties. First

of

of Fragments, where Climacus claims to have

"goes further than" the Socratic

from the Socratic view

—but B

tion as to whether the view.^' Secondly,

and undermine

it

his

raises several

appears to contradict the "Moral" at the end

all, it



that

shown

in other words,

is

that his project

genuinely different

one cannot thereby decide the ques-

hypothesis

is

more

true than the Socratic

would appear to blow Climacus' cover, so to speak,

own

Christian. Finally, the

he

assertions in the Postscript that

is

not a

whole "proof simply seems most implausible,

even incredible. Does Climacus

really

think that the mere fact that a

person has an understanding of Christianity

is

sufficient to guarantee

the truth of Christianity for that person?

The

first

and

last difficulty

that the "proof," to

if it is

can,

1

think, be resolved

someone who already has the condition.

Climacus introduces person

who can

this

really

been reborn. But

this

if

we

recognize

intended to be such, will only be convincing

whole discussion by a claim that the only

understand his project is

must be recalled that

It

precisely the person

condition from the god, and

it is

the person

is

who

who

has

has received the

reasonable that this person will view

the consciousness he has received from the god as something he could

only have thus received. So Climacus' argument cannot be seen as

intended to convince the non-Christian that Christianity insofar

it

Christianity cannot be

known

is

true,

and

to be true, but rather that the question

cannot be decided without a "new organ," namely remark

is

does not contradict the "Moral," which does not say that

faith.^^

Climacus'

not an "objective argument," but one more reminder of

the person

who

However,

how

has the condition will see things.

this resolution

that the fact that Climacus

only aggravates the second

is

one of those who

sees the

difficulty, in

B

hypothesis

42

as

PASSIONATE REASON

/

coming

humans from

to

revelation would strongly imply that he

one of those who have received the condition from the god. Even however, Climacus' status remains elusive. Only the believer

is

here,

will

be

inclined to accept the claim of Climacus that the hypothesis he has

spun out

is

of divine origin.

rejecting the "proof,"

blown, slip

it

The

be for those

will only

unbeliever will reject this notion in

and properly

so.

who

Hence,

Climacus' cover

if

is

share the faith he has allowed to

out of the disguise. One's decision about Climacus cannot be

disentangled from the knot he has tied with respect to Christianity itself.

The

reader

is

here challenged by the claim of Christianity, echoed

by Climacus in his B hypothesis, to

than any

human

clearly differs

rest

thought. This claim

is

on

part

a divine revelation rather

and parcel of a view which

from the Socratic. The reader who nosily

insists

on

penetrating the incognito of Climacus can only do so by disentangling the knot he poses and deciding what he thinks about the claim of Christianity to rest

on

a revelation.

CAN A NON'CHRISTIAN UNDERSTAND CHRISTIANITY? But what about the claim of Climacus that only the person who has

been reborn can understand

his project?

imply that Climacus himself

is

must be so

as well,

if

Not only does such

one of the reborn, but that

his readers

they are to understand him. Perhaps this

and we should see Climacus

as directing his

book

a claim

is

correct,

to Christians, re-

minding them of what they already know. Certainly, Climacus seems to assume that his reader

is

knowledgeable about Christianity, and

perhaps he assumes that his reader thinks of himself as a Christian.

This seems to be the case

for the interlocutor

who shows up

end of the chapters and a few other places. However,

it

believe that Climacus really thought his readers were

all

is

at the

hard to

genuinely

reborn. Furthermore, the claim that only the reborn can understand

the project seems too strong.

It just

does not seem to be the case that

only Christies can understand Christianity, and

would seem

tb

make

it

impossible for anyone

if

that were so,

it

to accept or reject

An Akemadve Christianity. in

View of

''The Truth!'

43

/

One cannot accept or reject what one does not understand

any sense. Furthermore,

his

to the Socratic

we

if

accept this strong claim of Climacus, then

whole project begins to look not merely

Whether Climacus

ironical, but fraudulent.

personally a Christian or not, he

is

is

pretending

to invent something that looks like Christianity merely by reflecting

on the

Socratic view.

however, one thinks that only the Christian

If,

believer can even understand Christianity, then such an exercise must

be impossible, and Climacus' deduction must involve quite a bit of sleight-of-hand.

We have

seen that in

its

essentials the logical exercise

Climacus puts us through seems sound, however, though

it is

admittedly

embellished in the details by the use of Christian language. However unlikely as a matter of fact,

it

seems logically possible

had the Socratic picture of things hypothesis. Climacus' I

bility

to think

own account would seem

we must

Since he says

makes

own

to

show

B

this.

it

will

be necessary to do some

about the problems. Climacus himself in Postscript

between two types of understanding of Christianity:

a distinction

understanding what Christianity

The

to be a Christian.^^

latter

is

is

and understanding what

it

means

only possible for Christians, but the

former must be a possibility for non-Christians as well. latter

like the

what we mean by "understanding."

about this here,

little

thinking on our

clarify

someone who

comments on the thinka-

believe that to disentangle Climacus'

of his project,

for

up something

It is

kind of understanding that Climacus has in mind

surely this

when he

says

that only the person who. has been reborn can understand his project.

Given

this assumption,

standing Christianity

is

it

makes sense that he would claim that under-

tantamount to seeing

viction of the believer that Christianity

understanding in

it

as a gift

hand with being All this

is

is

its

truth, since the con-

true surely derives

from

from God, an understanding which goes hand

a Christian.

compatible with the admission that a type of understand-

ing of Christianity

is

possible for the non-Christian. This

would be an

"intellectual" kind of understanding, a grasp of the logical relationships

the various Christian categories have to each other and to nonChristian ways of thinking. Such an intellectual understanding would

make

it

possible for a non-Christian to read Climacus'

book and follow

44 logical

its

PASSIONATE REASON

/

moves, but

it

would not necessarily make

possible for such

it

a reader to understand the implications of Christianity for his

Though I have even

if

them

discussed

together, Climacus poses

related issues at the conclusion of chapter

who

question as to whether the individual

The second

understand the project.

is

The

1.

life.

two

distinct

first is

the

has not been reborn can

the question as to whether the

content of the project could have been invented by a or must rather be traced to divine revelation.

The

first

human

question

being, I

have

argued must be answered by specifying further the kind of understanding

The second

in question.

answer

sible

is

issue

must

also be further specified

In saying that the project cannot be traced to a

Climacus might be taken to

a defen-

if

to be found.

as saying that

human

author,

impossible for the hypothesis

it is

have a human author, because no human who has not received the

condition from the god can even understand the project, invent

what

If

it.

it

we

means

understanding

much

less

take understanding in the strong sense of "understanding to be a Christian," is

Climacus probably thinks that such

impossible for the non-Christian. However, as

seen, the lack of such understanding

would not preclude a

kind of intellectual understanding, and

it

is

we have different

only this intellectual un-

derstanding that would seem to be required to think through the hypothesis.

that

If

is

correct,

then we should distinguish the claim that

Christianity could not have had a

human

author from the claim that

a non-Christian cannot understand Christianity. Perhaps

Christianity would not exist unless

it

compatible with saying that once revealed

someone who

On

this

someone

to

is

view

it is

true that

had been revealed, but that it

is

can be understood by

not a Christian. it

might seem that

it is

at least logically possible for

have invented Christianity or something

like Christianity,

thus undermining the "proof Climacus finds himself enchanted by. Surely,

up,

if

what

my

I

am

capable of understanding,

I

am

capable of thinking

imaginative powers are great enough. Certainly, the non-

Christian will want to

make

this very claim,

and

I

do not see that

Climacus says anything to prove the contrary. This concession that is

it

logically possible for someone to have come up with a system of ideas

that resembles Christianity fact

is

quite compatible with the claim that in

no human thinker has come up with anything

like this, a

claim

An

Akemadve

makes

that Climacus

to ihe Socratic

View of "The Truth"

made such

And

at the conclusion of the book.^"*

compatible with the Christian view that no

human

45

/

it is

equally

being could have

a discovery, not because such an understanding

logically

is

impossible for a non-Christian, but because of the sinfulness that characterizes the If

we

human

race.

take Climacus to be asserting the weaker thesis that Chris-

tianity could not

have been discovered apart from a revelation, he

still

seems to claim something which non-Christian readers cannot and will not accept. However, at

least this

weaker

thesis does

to the highly implausible claim that non-Christians

Christianity at

all. It

allows

standing possible for one for the it.

itself

if

to hold that there

own

a type of under-

has "heard about" Christianity but not yet accepted

intellectual understanding

would not have much value at least

deduction

is

in

makes sense of the

it

non-Christian readers can understand Climacus'

own

work.

not necessarily spurious or logically flawed. Even

the logical relationships would not have been perceived unless

Christianity

once more of possible:

knows how invented

to analyze

it."^^

may

into

its

to use

this sort

gunpowder,

components, does not mean that he

may understand Christianity withwho have grown up in a Christian

it,

and those

also possess a type of understanding, without this implying is

issues raised

or could have been a

human

invention.

here about the uniqueness of Christianity,

in a divine revelation,

come up again

now

it

how

Similarly, Christians

that Christianity

The

Climacus hints that understanding of

believers,

"Simply because someone knows

out having invented culture

is on the scene, the Though he may be thinking

had been revealed, once Christianity

relationships in question can be understood.

is

is

has not received the condition, at least

from a Christian standpoint, but

fact that

His

who

person

Such an

him

who

not commit him

cannot understand

and the

possibilities for

understanding

in our consideration of Philosophical Fragments.

turn our attention to chapter

2,

its it

origin

will all

We must

where Climacus continues

his

thought experiment by speculating about the way in which the god

might become the savior- teacher he has postulated in chapter

1.

.

CHAPTER

4 THE POETRY OF THE INCARNATION

In chapter 2 of Philosophical Fragments Johannes Climacus continues his

"thought experiment" by sketching the way in which the god might

carry out the task of teaching the learner by transforming him.

pretense of a logical deduction

is

here dropped, and the chapter's efforts

are plainly designated "a poetical venture."

One might

this that the ironical character of the project

is

the notion that a tianity

human

The

expect from

thereby lessened, since

being might describe something like Chris-

by employing her imaginative powers seems

audacious than

less

the idea that the same thing could be arrived at merely by logical reflection

on the

Socratic view. However, this expectation

Climacus himself says that Christianity

no more

is

is

incorrect.

accessible to the

imagination than to purely reflective reason, and the richness and denseness of the biblical allusions in chapter 2 ter, if

anything, even more pronounced than

is

make

ironical charac-

its

the case in chapter

1

THE TEACHER'S GOALS AND MOTIVES Chapter 2 begins by returning once more Climacus describes Socrates

lation to his social circumstances.^ Socrates

prompting" to be a teacher, and a ground in his

to the figure of Socrates.

as possessing a

this call

complex, "reciprocal" presumably

or needs, but his

is

own

therefore not simply

as well.

re-

and

and prompting doubtless had

own upbringing and education.

as a teacher, Socrates

felt a "call

The upshot

In taking up his vocation

moved by of

others'

all this is

demands

that Socrates'

The Poetry of behavior

as a

teacher

is

not purely

the

altruistic;

Iruzarmtkm

47

/

he meets the needs of

others to learn something, but at the same time he satisfies his

own

needs. Socrates himself understands this and therefore understands that

situation of the teacher in the case of

money or fame.^ the B hypothesis is

We

cannot imagine that

he needs no further reward

The

for his activities,

completely different, according to Climacus.

such

as

the god has the kind of socially conditioned need that he imagines Socrates as possessing, and "the god needs no disciple in order to

What

understand himself."^

then could motivate the god to become

the teacher? Climacus suggests that only love could be the motive, a

pure love for the other which has no element of need for the other or

any self-serving quality. Only such a love would allow the god to "move

himself and thus

satisfy

who moves all else The allusion to

the situation of Aristotle's

while remaining

unmoved

unmoved mover,

himself."^

Aristotle should not, however, fool the reader into

thinking that the god Climacus

is

poetically sketching

is

in other

ways

remote unmoved mover Aristotle describes. The god Climacus

like the

sketches has

no need of

others, but

he

is

described as having a need

within himself to love the other. Far from being remote, the god in this case

is

who

a passionate lover

is

capable of profound suffering on

behalf of his beloved, a suffering which of

much

of the teacher-god If

Climacus

classical theology.

alien to the impassible

God

the whole story

a story of suffering.-

is

one asks how Climacus knows that the god does indeed love the

human

beings

whom

he does not know

he seeks

it.

It

is

as his disciples, the

an assumption that

hypothesis going, so to speak. if

is

says, in fact, that

The

project,

it

will

answer is

made

is

simply that

to

keep the

be recalled,

is

to see

any alternative to the Socratic perspective can be conceived.

only alternative,

it

is

argued in chapter

1,

is

one

in

The

which the god

is

the teacher. Climacus' justification for the assumption that the god loves

human

beings

is

simply his claim that he can conceive no other

possible motive for the god to

The assumption about

become such

a teacher.

the god's motives provides Climacus with a

goal for the god's activities as a teacher as well. In the case of such

pure love for the other, motive and goal must coincide, so the goal of the god's activities must be to "win" the learner, to establish and

maintain a loving relationship with him.^ This relationship

is

variously

48

PASSIONATE REASON

/

described as one that standing.

a relationship

is

becomes

also

It

is

characterized by equality, unity, and underclear in the discussion that follows that such

one characterized by freedom on both

a voluntary

sides.

Climacus here seems to make some pretty significant assumptions about the nature of love. Are these assumptions defensible? Does genuine love require equality

and mutual understanding? Does

require

it

One might argue the contrary, citing the love of parent and Do we not here have genuine love which requires

freedom?

child as example.^

and certainly does not presuppose mutual understanding,

inequality

since neither the child nor the parent can fully enter the other's world?

For his argument to work, Climacus does not have to claim that all

love requires equality and mutual understanding, but only that the

highest form of love requires

this.

Such

a claim

is

defensible,

think,

I

even when we consider the case of the relationship of parent to

Even

if

we put

how much

beautiful

its

I

believe that the parent-child relationship

fullest potential

only

when

the child

and touching the love of a parent

and however lovely the love of the child is

much a live one, as to may in the end be mixed

aside the question, surely very

the love of a parent for a child

with self-interested motives,

can reach

a sense in

child.

which

this love

may

may

be,

be, there

in the context of the child's

A parent who

a child would not really love that child.

grown. However

for the parent

must be seen

potential to grow to maturity.

is

for a small child

wanted

The

a child to

remain

love of parent and child

thus potentially, though of course not always in reality, becomes deeper

and richer

as the child develops.

fullest potential

fully

when

Perhaps such a love only reaches

the child has

become

a parent herself

understand the sacrifices and love made by the parent.

when

this stage

dominant

Even

made

me

that Climacus

is

only is

a

possible by the greater degree

in the relationship of parent

and

child, then, greater

and mutual understanding deepen and enrich the

therefore to

and can

It is

reached that an element of mutual freedom

factor in the relationship,

of equality. equality

is

its

love.

It

seems

entitled to his assumptions about the

nature of a love relationship, at least in the context of such a poetical venture.

The

Poetry of the Irvxirnadon

49

/

THE TRIALS OF LOVE Given Climacus' assumptions about the motives and god,

we can

see

how

poetry, for to be

the poet.

And

as

m

appropriate

for

is

the realm of love the case in

is

it

many

is

him

goals of the teacher-

surely to be in the realm of

a tale of love, the saga Climacus

recounts concerns the difficulties love encounters in

Love

fillment.

stories

almost always involve

there should be a difficulty

is

not

from logic to

to turn

its

quest for

difficulties, so

itself surprising.

ful-

the idea that

In most love stories,

They are some such

the difficulty concerns the lovers' inability to be united.

pulled

apart by feuding families or the conflicts of war, or

thing.

Climacus says that these is

in

difficulties

do not concern him. To begin,

it

hard to imagine the god being thwarted by such circumstances, and

any case

this sort of

problem

at

most means that the lovers cannot

be together in time. Eternity, presumably, will here set things

The more

troubling as well as

right.

more relevant case involves an

nal rather than an external difficulty.

No

inter-

environmental obstacle pre-

vents the lovers from being united, but something in their relationship

is

a barrier to the mutual understanding that love seeks. Specifically, a relationship characterized by great inequality

The unequal

as

one could

be.

troubled in this way. disciple

of course as

is

Climacus does not here talk about the meta-

physical inequality between

on God's

is

between the god and the

relationship

God and

a

human

being; the focus

superiority because of his omnipotence, omniscience,

on, though he seems to assume that the god inequality has to

is

all-powerful.

do with the dependence of the

The

disciple

is

not

and so

relevant

on the

god.

In the case of the Socratic situation the disciple was genuinely autono-

mous and owed Socrates nothing. The B postulates that the god

new

creature.

Such

The

makes

it

disciple thus

a situation

is

hypothesis,

on the other hand,

possible for the disciple to

become

a

owes the god everything.

fraught with danger, as Climacus sees

it.

Genuine

love wants to build up the lover, but in this case the love of the god

threatens to destroy the self-confidence, or, as psychologists today might say, self-esteem of

at the

human

the disciple.

The god must then

"look with concern"

race, "for the individual's tender shoot

can be crushed

50

PASSIONATE REASON

/

The

as readily as a blade of grass.

out of love to

is

therefore far

more

uphold the created world

task the teacher-god has set himself

difficult

than the sheer power required

in existence.*^ It

this difficulty that

is

the whole story of the god as a teacher a story of suffering. for the

makes

What agony

god to find himself in danger of crushing that which he wants

to save by the very act of attempting to save.

Climacus seems to be of two minds with respect to the of our understanding the god's sorrows in such a case.

he says that we human being are so cannot understand such a love and

selfish in

its

our

On

own

possibility

the one hand love that

accompanying sorrow.

language "does not even have an intimation of such a sorrow."'^ the other hand, he says that any person

intimation of such a sorrow

"is a

who

we

Human

On

does not have at least an

lumpish soul with only

as

much

character as a small coin which bears neither Caesar's nor God's image."'

^

Perhaps he wants to say that though we cannot truly under-

stand the god's position, there are faint analogies in our experience that give us

Climacus'

some understanding. That

own

situation in

at

least

is

consistent with

procedure, for he proceeds to describe an analogous

some

detail "to

awaken the mind

the divine," even though he cautions us "that

an understanding of

to

no human

situation can

provide a valid analogy."'^

THE KING AND THE MAIDEN The

question as to

how

the god might actually perform his "teaching"

and unite himself to the is

disciple in

mutual understanding out of love

answered by Climacus through his analogy, which takes the form of

some musings on the well-known type of fairy tale in which a powerful king falls in love with a peasant maiden. Through this poetic tale we get to see the inequality

and the

distress

it

occasions, and

allowed to explore alternative strategies for overcoming the

The king case.

No

king

is

is

one and no external

politicians or foreign powers dare to

are

difficulties sully the

make

trouble, yet the

troubled by the kingly worry that his love will only

woman unhappy forget

a powerful

we

difficulty.

make

the

by reminding her of "what the king only wished to

— that he was the king and she had been

a

poor maiden."'^ In

The Poetry of

how can

such a case

the

Immnatkm

51

/

the love relationship be characterized by the

freedom, equaUty, and mutual understanding that love demands? Will

not the maiden always be conscious of her dependence on the king?

To story

is

moment from

turn for a

god who

story of the

is

supposed in turn to illuminate, the importance of the issue here

cannot be overemphasized. The problem

B

assumption of the is

Christianity claims to be a faith ness, but

it

human

the problem.

Is

at the heart of is

about the

and

fulfills

faith.

our human-

on God

persons

itself

to

overcome

degrading and

can appear to be, and such a reaction will later

lies

term "offense." Whether such

human

From the point of view

condition.

beings are actually guilty before

to transform

them

Only by recognizing our

so as to

make

hypothesis and does

room

even

To

if

B

we presume him omnipotent, has The actions he must take

make the

important to see that offense

B

fulfilled.

this feature of Christianity in his

in this situation.

to avoid misunderstanding

assumption of the

with him possible.

humanness be

so.

shall see, the god,

limited maneuvering

of Chris-

God and dependent on

a relationship

actual situation can our

Hence Climacus must reproduce

simply ignored.

human

dehumanizing and degrading depends on what the

in fact

human

it

what Climacus

truth

As we

restores

What

anything but humane. Christianity posits

as

not such a view of

a view

tianity,

which

beings are sinful and are dependent

dehumanizing? Certainly

God

stems directly from the

has often been perceived, by Enlightenment thinkers and

by secular humanists today,

is

really

hypothesis that the learner lacks the Truth.

might be termed the humane character of Christian

at stake

that

own

the fairy tale back to Climacus'

our lover, and to the Christianity which that

is

possibility of offense acute. It

not something the god

hypothesis the inequality

avoid

the inferior party happier,

it

is

or ignore

it,

while

is

it

real

wills.

On

is

the

and cannot be

may appear

to

make

ultimately to destroy the possibility of an

honest relationship.

The

and to see how we The poet has two possible strategies for removing The king must either elevate the maiden to his own

inequality must therefore be dealt with,

return to the fairy tale.

the inequality. level, or else

descend to her

level. In

both cases the king

is

the agent

of change, since to imagine the maiden as capable of elevating herself to his level

is

to imagine she

is

more than a maiden, and would

52

/

PASSIONATE REASON

invalidate the analogy to the case of the god,

cannot be abolished by the

human

where the inequality

disciple without returning to the

Socratic position.

Union through Ascent It

might appear that the king could simply bring the young

to his level by

making her

his queen.

There

are several

ways

woman

this

might

be accomplished. In each case Climacus claims, however, that his noble

What

king has "seen the difficulties" with such a strategy.

are those

difficulties?

That the king might simply order the woman expect her to obey out of fear of the consequences

by Climacus, since such a relationship that

is

obedience

fearful

the king's goal.

More

is

to marry

from the loving

far

is

plausible

the idea that the

is

woman

ascent could be brought about by dazzling the young

splendors of her fairy tale to like:

new

position.

the situation of the god and describes what this would be learner up toward himself, exalt

him, divert him with joy lasting a thousand years. the misunderstanding in his tumult of

would

with the

Climacus switches quickly back from his

"The god would then draw the

standing?"

him and

not even considered

Why

is

it

that the

joy."''*

girl (to

.

.let

What

the learner forget

is

this

"misunder-

switch back to the fairy tale)

in such a case be "essentially deceived?"

The misunderstanding

lies, I

the young woman's situation favor. In herself she

is

is

think, in the fact that in such a case totally a function of the king's

nothing, and

if

she

is

good

conscious of this nothingness

she cannot possibly have the "bold confidence" she needs to love the

king

freely.

The deception

lies

in the "diversion" that blocks her

from

gaining such a consciousness by virtue of the delights that have been

bestowed upon her. Even

if

the young

happy, their relationship would not

The problem "before the lowly rise

woman would

satisfy

the king.

reappears even more acutely

maiden

over her hut... and

consider herself

if

the king appeared

in all his splendor... let the sun of his glory

let

her forget herself in adoring admiration."

own glorification, but the The king presumably wants the girl to love him, not for his power and riches, but for himself. To lure her by riches and grandeur Since he

girl's."'^

is

in love, the king desires "not his

The Poetry of

the

Incarmtion

know

could not serve his ends, because he could not possibly

responding to

him

53

/

she was

rather than the riches and grandeur. This fear of

the king's corresponds to the god's worry that should he dazzle the learner with a

show of

his power, the learner

would "love only the

omnipotent miracle worker."'^ Furthermore, the king wants a response characterized by freedom and self-confidence, a response that requires

the

girl to

have a sense of her own worth, to understand that she

indeed loved by the king and

is

is

not merely his plaything.

In the case of the god and the learner, this difficulty increases to

The

a wholly different order, since the learner lacks the condition. learner

is

in fact totally

dependent on the god; receives her value and

How

worth in receiving the condition. being crushed?

How

can she receive

this

without

can she maintain the self-confidence and boldness

to love the god freely?

Union through Descent

The

solution must be for the union to be accomplished through

the god's descent rather than through the learner's elevation. to this

is

present in the fairy

tale,

of course. Tlie king

him

peasant in disguise, hoping she will learn to love

An analog

comes

and power. Both the maiden and the king

distractions of wealth

understand the relationship and will understand that the love given on both

to the

apart from the

is

will

freely

sides.

In the case of the god, a disguise will not do.

The god must not

simply appear to be the equal of the beloved, but actually share the situation of the beloved: "For this

is

the boundlessness of love, that in

earnestness and truth and not in jest

beloved, and

it is

resolute love's

it

wills to

be the equal of the

omnipotence to be able to do

which neither the king nor Socrates was capable, which assumed characters were

The bottom line

is

still

in

an external fashion.

is

brought about by the god changing himself.

there

is

this,

why

of

their

a kind of deceit."^^

that love does not impose changes

The

is

on the beloved

learner must be changed, but the change

The

difficulty

is

that

a real risk that the god will not be recognized, just as the king

opens himself up to the

possibility of rejection

himself. If the god's incognito

is

no mere

by coming

easily

as a peasant

seen through disguise,

54

PASSIONATE REASON

/

but his true form, then the to argue that there is

is

The

to be established.

risk will

no way

be genuine, but Climacus wants

to avoid

it

if

a real relationship of love

ultimate sorrow of the god

course of action that represents the only possible

that the very

is

way of

satisfying the

love relationship can be the very thing that separates the lovers.

ultimate suffering of the god

power

to

is

The

not the relinquishment of his glory and

assume the lowly position of the learner, but the realization

may be all for naught. The very action may be the action that blocks the learner from responding to the god's wooing. The suffering in the relationship is not reserved for the god alone, however. Toward the close of the chapter, Climacus hints that in some way the learner who that this tremendous sacrifice that

is

necessary to save the learner

becomes the god's

disciple

who

ably the individual

must share in the god's

suffering.''^

Presum-

does not respond must be understood as mis-

erable as well, since he will continue to lack the Truth, even

if

this

person thinks of himself as happy. In the appendix to chapter 3 Climacus calls the learner's misunder-

standing and rejection of the god offense, and attitude

more

fully

later.

possibility of offense

is

However,

it

is

we

shall discuss this

important to see that the

inherent in this situation of love between

unequals frc^m the very beginning.

stems from the god's love for the

It

learner, a love that expresses itself in a respect for the

freedom and

dignity of the learner.

THE POEM AS THE WONDER We saw that at the close of chapter

1

a strange dialogue

ensued between

Climacus and an interlocutor, who objected to Climacus' whole procedure on the grounds that his thought-experiment was something well

known

to everyone. Climacus' response

was to admit that something

funny has been going on and to claim that not only not invented by him, but has no that raises, as

we

author

was

claim

as author.

close of chapter 2 this strange dialogue

more intense

at all, a

saw, complex problems about the form of the book

and Climacus' own stance

At the

his thought-project

human

level.

The charge made by

is

the interlocutor

rejoined, at a is

even

angrier:

The Poetry of

the Incarnation

55

/

"What you are composing is the shabbiest plagiarism ever to appear." Once more CUmacus pleads guilty and this time explicitly attributes his poem to the deity.''' In chapter 1 the fact that the thought-project is of more than human origin "enthralls" Climacus and becomes a proof of the correctness of his hypothesis. In chapter 2 the contem-

"amazement"

plation of his poem's divine origin grips his soul with

and "adoration" and induces him

which

is

not really a

poem

to stand

but

''the

wondrously before the poem,

wonder' {Vidunderet or "the

miracle").-'

Even more obviously than his

own

disguise slip aside

in chapter

Climacus here seems to

1

and reveal where

he may seem to be making

his heart really

a highly debatable

is

human

being could have invented,

speaking.

writing

The

for, are

interlocutor,

let

Though

and dubious empirical

claim here, namely that the central core of Christianity a

is.

is

not something

we must remember

to

whom

he

and presumably the readers Climacus

is

evidently people brought up as Christians; they are at

The interlocutor acpoem "something that any

the very least knowledgeable about Christianity. cuses Climacus of putting forward as his child knows."--

It

Christianity rests

has always been part of Christian teaching that

on

placeable. Climacus

a divine revelation that is

not so

much

is

both unique and

irre-

arguing for this bold claim as

reminding his presumably Christian readers of

it

and what

it

means.

In a culture where familiarity with the Christian message has brought

with

it

dullness

if

not contempt, he

is

trying to rekindle a sense of the

strangeness of the Christian story, a strangeness that can be taken as a sign of

its

truth.

in fact the case that the analogies to the Christian

It is

concept of

the incarnation are at best few and far between. Neither Moses nor

Abraham nor Mohammed dhists say the

are thought of as divine.

and the idea of the Buddha both

differ significantly

that the

as the incarnation of the

within

central message

human

are irreducibly plural. For these

have been many incarnations of the divine, and there

can be more. Such a concept its

Buddha-essence

from the Christian view of the incarnation in

Hindu and Buddhist concepts

religions, there

because

Theravada Bud-

same of the Buddha. The Hindu notion of a divine avatar

beings.

is

is

rooted in the Socratic view of things,

ultimately the possibility of god-likeness

The uniqueness

of the Christian claim lends

56

PASSIONATE REASON

/

plausibility to the claim of Climacus:

human

"Presumably

could occur to a

it

being to poetize himself in the likeness of the god or the god

in the likeness of himself, but not to poetize that the

human

himself in the likeness of a

god poetized

being."" That a culture informed

by the Christian story might produce some imitators of the Christian view, such as might be found in the Unification Church, which appar-

Moon

ently views the Reverend

an incarnation of

as

God

(a reincar-

nation of Jesus?), does not really undermine this claim. Despite the reverent response of Climacus himself, the uniqueness of the Christian story, even

genuinely distinctive, does

if it is

establish the truth of Christianity.

many contemporary was

really divine

claim

is

little

to

The widespread embarrassment

of

Christian theologians over the belief that Jesus

makes

The uniqueness

this clear.^^

of the Christian

seen as an irritant that makes good ecumenical relations

between Christianity and other religions impossible. Despite reverence at the end of chapters

is

not at

of this uniqueness claim. in itself

and

offense" to

One point.

all

It is

in Climacus'

its

and

2,

which

in

is

grips the

a major reason

"poem"

why

Christianity, both

version, poses the "possibility of

hearers.

Climacus wants to

insist that Christianity lies

powers of reason and imagination.

He

lies right at this

beyond the human

will argue in chapter 3 that the

a paradox that cannot be understood

is

seeming

ignorant of the double-edged character

of the great ironies of Philosophical Fragments

incarnation

his

both cases

an emotion of "amazement" that

attributed to a "spell" or

author, Climacus

1

and

as

such poses

the possibility of offense. Yet the net impact of Climacus' reflection

is

to help us understand the plausibility of the incarnation, given his

assumptions about our situation as one in which we lack the Truth

The incarnation human expectations, yet something completely contrary to our natural human expectations is precisely what we must have on the premises of the B hypothesis. It might seem that Climacus is undermining his own case here by and the god seeks to remedy is

this defect out of love.

completely contrary to our natural

he has imaginatively invented Christianity,

his poetic invention. If

doesn't that

show

that

it

course Climacus has done tion of

what

a

is

not necessarily of divine origin? But of

no such

thing. His "invention"

is

a transcrip-

Sunday School student today knows or should know.

The Poetry

What he has done through his of what

is

thus so familiar.

of the

Incanvmon

mark

of

57

is

rekindle a sense of the strangeness

CUmacus

helps the believer at least to see

irony

that his inabilit\' to understand the Christian message standable, and a

j

its

is

itself

truth: a sign that Chnstianiry"

is

under-

indeed

what "eye has not seen, ear has not heard," something that has not originated within any

human

heart.-'

CHAPTER

THOUGHT, PASSION, AND PARADOX

Chapter 3 of

"The Absolute Paradox

Philosophical Fragments, entitled

(A Metaphysical

Caprice),"

is

probably the richest and most suggestive

chapter of the book from a philosophical standpoint, yet

A

most puzzling and enigmatic. reader immediately

book

to the

becoming

as a

is

also

is

the

simply to determine the relation of the chapter

whole. Chapter

a teacher by taking

and builds on chapter

it

central problem that confronts the

1.

2,

on the

with

its

poetic tale of the god

state of the learner, clearly follows

Chapter 4, which begins "So, then

(to

continue

our poem)," clearly takes up where chapter 2 leaves off and continues the tale of the god

an

human

which

understanding and

are interesting, but

being. Chapter 3 contains

what comes before and

relation to various passions,

its

do not seem

On

after.

be a kind of digression, and far

human

a

influential critique of natural theology, a host of provocative claims

about

to

who becomes

its

to be immediately

all

of

connected

the surface, the chapter seems to

purpose and function in the book are

from being immediately obvious.

Chapter 3 begins,

as did

chapter

1,

with Socrates, and

1

think

best to see the chapter as a kind of starting-over, a retracing of

of the same ground covered in chapters different angle.

We

1

and

begin with a Socrates

nature, unsure as to whether he

is

"a

2,

who

though from a is

it is

some

slightly

puzzled by his

own

more curious monster than Typhon

or a friendlier and simpler being, by nature sharing something divine

229

e)."'

However, "in order to get started" Climacus

shifts

from

this uncertainty to a type of certainty: "Still,

(see Phaedrus

immediately

now,... make a bold proposition: let us assume that

let us

what

a

human

being

is."^

With

this

we know

assumption Climacus has indeed

Thought, Passion, and Paradox

returned to the starting point of chapter

know what and

this

a

assumption

recollection.^

edge

human

being is

is

there

is

1

that

we

least that

assumption that we

by Climacus to the theory of

we humans possess

identical with the assumption that

is

59

said to be the criterion of truth,

specifically linked

Hence the assumption

for the

,

/

we

this

knowl-

possess the Truth, or at

possess the condition for gaining the Truth.

Having made the Socratic assumption, however, Climacus moves away from

even more rapidly than

in chapter

1.

In an obscure passage,

the understanding's postulated self-knowledge

is

rendered doubtful by

it

an encounter, a "collision" with something. "But then the understanding stands

still,

as did Socrates, for

now

the understanding's paradoxical

passion that wills the collision awakens and, without really understanding

itself,

wills its

own

downfall."'^

This collision, involving a paradox

"intimated" but not known,

that

is

own

puzzlement about himself.

said to be the source of Socrates'

is

The

collision

is

therefore an event that

seems to point the individual in the direction of the B hypothesis by putting the Socratic assumption in question. I

believe that this gives us the clue

we need

The

of chapter 3 in Philosophical Fragments.

kind of starting-over

The author chapters, is

correct, but

is

it

issues

The central issue attitudes human reason can it is

1

and

is,

two 3, It

take toward the

B

I

believe, the various

hypothesis. In surveying

how far human its own steam. two chapters that human

proper to begin by exploring

B

hypothesis

know from the first B hypothesis on

reason cannot generate the is

in the first

2 constantly lurks in the back-

of the chapter

thinking can go toward generating the

be precise, we already

a

once more with the Socratic position,

true that the chapter begins

these possible attitudes

come

posed there form an agenda for chapter

ground.

is

not a starting from scratch.

has some sense of where he has

and the

but the hypothesis of chapters

To

is

to rightly see the role

sense that chapter 3

proper for Climacus to see

if

there

is

its

on

own. Nevertheless,

it

any possible point of contact

between human reason and the contents of the B hypothesis. In looking at the attempts of

Climacus

is

human

reason to understand what

between human thinking and something lision

is

ultimate,

beginning with a plausible point of contact: an encounter

with what he terms the unknown.^

it

cannot understand, a col-

The

closest reason

can come

60

PASSIONATE REASON

/

B

to generating the

hypothesis, even

attempt by reason to discover

The most

own

its

if it

is

unsuccessful, will be an

limits.

plausible attempt along these lines

is

the fabled Socratic

ignorance, in which Socrates, despite the Platonic assumption of recollection Climacus foists to

means

will

human

concede that his

earlier

is

that

Climacus by no

thyself."

contention about the inability of

B hypothesis is incorrect. The central human reason cannot by itself conceive

"absolutely different."^ Nevertheless, he

is

that something of significance

Human

to a standstill over his inability

"know

reason to generate the

thrust of the chapter

of what

on him, comes

the Delphic injunction to

fulfill

reason

is

powerless by

is

"collides." Nevertheless there

is

This "point of contact"

collision.

itself to

discover that with which

human

in is

inclined to think

is

present in this Socratic ignorance. it

reason an affinity for this

not sufficient for reason to dispense

with God's self-revelation. Nevertheless, the search for the limits of reason reveals a potential affinity between reason and revelation. affinity

becomes actual only when certain conditions

but the fact that reason possesses this potential cant. This affinity

is

the

theme

first

I

is

The

are actualized,

nevertheless signifi-

wish to explore.

REASON'S PASSION: WILLING

ITS

OWN DOWNFALL Almost

at the

understanding^

beginning of the chapter, Climacus claims that is

gripped by a peculiar passion: the desire for

We can recognize right away that Climacus

downfall.

and poetically here.

Strictly speaking,

have passions; they are

and

their thinking

qualities of persons.

may embody

paradox pitch

is

offers little support or

is

is

speaking loosely

understanding does not

However persons do

think,

or reflect their passions.

Climacus makes several claims

which he

human

human own

its

at the

beginning of the chapter for

even elaboration. Asserting that "the

the passion of thought" and that "every passion's highest

always to will

its

own

downfall," he concludes that "thus

it

is

the highest passion of the understanding to will the collision, although in

one way or another the

hard to say whether this

is

collision

must become

its

downfall."^

intended as argument. In any case,

It is it

is

Thou^, enough where Climacus wants

clear

and Paradox

Passion,

to go: "This, then,

61

/

the highest

is

paradox of thought: to want to discover something that cannot be thought."^

That human reason has an enduring fascination with the paradoxseems right to me; an encounter with the paradoxical does engender

ical

something that

name

rightly deserves the

"passion."

The psychology

involved in the claim that every passion involves something like a

Freudian death- instinct seems more dubious to me, but fortunately

nothing hangs on to

know

if

downfall;

it

human

every

passion at

be enough to see

will

We

this universal psychological claim.

if

its

do not need

highest point wills

something

like this desire

own

its

present

is

dominant passions that appear to drive human reason.

in the

Actually, the dubious psychology almost disguises a really decisive

move Climacus makes, and making

place. In

first

that

is

to

a controversial

view reason

we almost do not

the ultimate passion of the understanding,

we have accepted the

that

From Climacus'

perspective,

as passionate in the

and perhaps dubious claim about

idea that the understanding

human

reason

is

notice

passionate.

not a disinterested quest

is

for a god-like

view of things, but the expression of a very interested

human

It

being.

is

only in the context of viewing

the expression of

itself

begins to

make

Climacus

"is

we do not

ever,

passion that the more striking claim

us that the desire to discover

we

something that thought

notice this "because of

habit. "^° Little

think they

I

is

given

make some

sense

take a particular view of reason, a view which

though by no means developed. The view use the

title "imperialistic

reason." Reason,

a neutral dispassionate faculty, or even domination.

because

it

is

not

know my way

this

realm

It

A

is

more

I

around, and

my own. The

I

of paradox

my

help

see as implicit

one which could aptly this view, far

from being

an instrument of control

paradox engenders passion in

The realm

unknown

is

on

like

a challenge, a reality that

control or dominate.

indeed to the

How-

fundamentally present everywhere in thought."

here to understand these remarks, but if

reason as

sense.

tells

cannot think

human

human

human

reason

do not yet know how

to

the realm in which

do

is

response reveals a desire to

I

make

response of reason to the paradoxical, and

generally, reveals a desire for mastery.

certainly does not appear immediately obvious that all thinking

62

is

PASSIONATE REASON

/

gripped by the passion to discover something that thought cannot

think, but

it

becomes more plausible

if

we view human thinking

as the

expression of this type of desire for mastery. Consider natural science,

which many would view

most important achievement and char-

as the

acteristic expression of reason.

frontier of knowledge.

hensible are

The

incitements to scientific discovery, which continually

all

attempts to understand what

much

not yet understood. This seems not so

is

a passion for discovering

as a passion for

Science continually pushes back the

paradoxical, the surprising, the incompre-

something that thought cannot think

understanding everything. However, on close inspection,

the latter passion can be interpreted as a disguised form of the

seeking to understand what to

there are

all

scientist

In

first.

does not understand, in restlessly seeking

unknown territory, is not reason any limits to human understanding?

conquer

The

it

seeking to discover

if

seems never to find or be content with any ultimate

explanation. Molecules are explained in terms of atoms.

Atoms

are

explained in terms of subatomic particles. Subatomic particles are explained in terms of God knows what.

were found? think?

Two

What

if

possible responses

feeling of defeat

is

What if some ultimate explanation

reason discovered something that thought cannot

On

can be imagined.

easily imaginable.

The

the one hand, a

scientist has at last hit

on

something impervious to imperialistic reason, something that we cannot explain,

and therefore cannot dominate or control.

has failed.

On

the other hand,

we might

well take

Imperialistic reason

some

having reached what could reasonably be termed the explained

all

somewhat

that could be explained, and

less imperialistic stance,

it

if

goal.

We

have

reason could take a

might see the discovery

an ambition that was implicit in reason's activity

The

satisfaction in

all

as fulfilling

along.

discovery that Climacus envisions as playing such a role for

reason does not of course

come from

natural science, but from the

human quest for self-understanding. Nevertheless, the same responses that we envisioned in the case of such a discovery in natural science are possible in the case of the paradox of self-knov/ledge. Socrates, in his quest for self-knowledge,

awakens "the understanding's paradoxical

passion that wills the collision." This passion, "without really under-

standing

itself,

wills

reason has a natural

own

The key point here ambivalence about its own limits. Such

its

downfall.""

is

that

a limit

and Paradox

Thoug/it, Passion,

would be reason's "downfall." However,

could also be seen as the

it

an excursion

fulfillment or satisfaction of reason's ultimate goal. After

and

into natural theology

limitations,

its

sideration of this ambivalence,

and we

63

/

Climacus returns to a con-

will follow his

example.

PROOFS OF GOD'S EXISTENCE After his puzzling "collision" with

immediately

initial

discussion of Socratic self-knowledge

an unknown which

it

both

fears

and

desires,

and

its

Climacus

of natural theology, the classical

shifts to a discussion

The

attempts to prove God's existence.

transition

is

made

in the

following manner:

But what

is

this

unknown

against

which the understanding in its man and his

paradoxical passion collides and which even disturbs

self-knowledge? insofar as

It

unknown. But

the

is

he knows man, or anything

let us call this

unknown

not a

is

it

human

being,

he knows. Therefore,

else that

only a

name

that

that this does not

seem

to be only a

the god. It

is

we

give to

it.'^

The as

difficulty,

however,

is

Climacus himself immediately begins a discussion of the

attempts to prove that

God

exists,

strong evidence that the

name,

classical

name was

not exactly chosen at random.

The

justification for this procedure lies,

I

think, in the Socratic

viewpoint from which the chapter begins. Climacus has consistently interpreted the Socratic position as equivalent to the claim that knowl-

edge of the divine

knowledge leads

is

bound up with self-knowledge.

to the "collision" with the

Insofar as self-

unknown,

it

is

logical to

regard this encounter as itself an encounter with the divine, and since

the encounter leads to bewilderment, in turn to interpret the divine as

unknown. The ultimate purpose of Climacus termed negative theology.

Can

reason by

of God, precisely by conceiving of

God

is

to explore

what might be

come up with a concept what is unknown to reason?

itself

as

Or, put in terms of our earlier question, can thought discover something

thought cannot think?

If it

could, would

it

thereby discover

God?

But why does Climacus discuss the proofs of God's existence, which

64

PASSIONATE REASON

/

knowledge of God? Climacus

are of course attempts to gain positive

must

consider these attempts by reason to discover God's

first

and find them wanting. Given

their failure,

reality,

he can then see whether

reason can redeem this failure by constructing an understanding of God

unknown.

negatively, as the

The claim

that "the god"

is

on the

a bit of playful irony

name" seems

"only a

serious look at attempts to gain

If

is

have knowledge of God, then he ought to be able

and hypothetical, and since

his conclusion

knowledge of the divine, the

way functions

illegitimately.

know God

tempts to

philosophically

Climacus were trying to show that we human beings do to justify his equation

of the divine with the limits of reason. Since his purpose

rational

misfire,

is

linguistic

Climacus looks

and

is

B

like the

position too

is

tried

at the

ways positive

hypothesis by examining

the chapter, but

it

is

reading,

is

So

examine far as

I

own

itself

The

discover

failures.

This

interest

is

discussion of the theistic

by no means the central theme of

a discussion that

of interest in

is

and certainly has attracted a great deal of briefly

its

and found wanting, but something of

my

at-

this leads naturally to the position

nevertheless to be learned from the failure.

arguments then, on

experimental

we do not have any sleight of hand in no

that

he wants to consider, namely whether reason can by something

taking a

is

an understanding of what humans have

thought of as ultimate or divine. However, the irony innocent.

therefore to be

part of Climacus, since he

interest

its

own

from readers.

I

right shall

his critique.

can

tell,

Climacus has two general or a

priori objections

to the idea of proving God's existence, as well as specific objections

and

to the ontological

general arguments

first,

teleological arguments.

and

1

shall

examine the

in that context look at his objection to

the ontological argument, and then look at the criticism given against the more empirical teleological argument, or argument from design.

Thought and Being: General Arguments against Natural Theology and the Ontological Argument

The exists or

first critical

course

argument takes the form of a dilemma. Either God

he does not,

it is

says Climacus. If

God

impossible to prove that he does.

If

does not

exist,

God does exist,

then of

however,

Thou^, Climacus says that

moment

the very

"it

is

Passion,

want

foolishness to

and Paradox

to demonstrate

the proof begins would presuppose

This argument of Climacus

65

it,

since

I,

in

decided. "^^

it... as

show

obviously not designed to

is

/

that sound

proofs of God's existence cannot be given, but rather that the project of

giving such proofs

The

is

idea that

somehow

prove

it?

believe,

if I

Although

person would not

am

seems to be simply that

it

I

would not

were already convinced that

why

should

God

try to

I

true for psychological reasons that a

prove God's existence

not obvious that

it is

I

already convinced,

may be

it

try to

must be

true.

who

did not already

Could not someone who

simply undecided attempt to discover an argument that would thereby

produce a conviction that is

pointless. this

prove God's existence unless

try to

did exist. However,

is

behind

lies

right about this,

pointless.

may be

It

that

God's existence were

I

me

is

any

case,

even

if

Climacus

would not bother to construct a proof of

I

I

construct

may

still

have value.

and strengthening

in confirming

that the belief

exists? In

not already convinced of God's reality on other

grounds, but the proof

value for

God

does not imply that proofs of God's existence are

it

reasonable.

Even more

consider the idea that such a proof

my

significantly,

may have

It

may have

showing

belief,

Climacus

me

fails

to

value for other people

than myself.

The second general argument offered by Climacus

is

more promising

and certainly more interesting from a philosophical standpoint. The claim

is

that

one cannot

because existence

ment.

"I

is

really

God

constantly draw conclusions from existence, not towards

existence."^"*

Here Climacus seems

niscent of Hume's claim that

The

demonstrate the existence of

not something that can be demonstrated by argu-

to take a position

which

is

remi-

no "matter of fact" can be demonstrated.^^

reason Climacus gives for this view, however,

argument that no matter of

fact

not Hume's

is

can be demonstrated because the

contrary of a matter of fact can always be conceived as logically possible,

but rather seems to rest on another Kant's famous argument that existence

Humean is

claim,

one echoed

in

not a quality or property that

something can be shown to have.'^ As Climacus puts

it,

existence

is

always something presupposed by an argument, or perhaps something

added to

he

it,

but

says that

is

never

itself

we do not prove

established by the argument.

As examples,

that a stone exists, but that

some

existing

66 thing

PASSIONATE REASON

/

a stone,

is

and that

in a criminal trial,

criminal exists, but that a person

who

exists

we do not prove a criminal.'^

is

Humean, namely

supported by another claim that sounds

can be accomplished by a demonstrative argument consequences of a concept. is

not a concept to

we add

If

Humean

this

that a

These

that

all

are

that

to develop the

is

the Kantian claim that existence

claim that only "relations of ideas"

are subject to demonstrative proof, then the conclusion Climacus wants

seems to follow. All of this touches on an issue that

of central importance in

is

Kierkegaard's pseudonymous authorship, namely the relationship of

thought to being. In Concluding Unscientific

Climacus argues

Postscript,

that to avoid idealism one must hold fast to a distinction between

thought and being, a distinction that

undermined

is

if

one concedes

concept to be thought. The distinction between thought

that being

is

a

and being

is

not a distinction between one thought and another, but

a distinction

between what

deals with possibility; being

actual

X

there

may be no

merely thought and what

is is

actuality.

difference at

Between

all in

Thought

is.

a possible

X

and an

conceptual qualities.

The

not one of content but of mode, and Climacus wants to

difference

is

insist that

we understand what

it is

to be actual not by thinking about

a certain quality called "existence" but by being actual, by existing.^^

This discussion of thought and being in to the critique of the ontological

Climacus looks

in chapter 3 of Fragments.

offered by Spinoza, in is

to be the

existence

enjoys

is

is

which

it is

due to a

closely related

at a version of this

exist necessarily, since necessary

failure to distinguish clearly

"being," ideal being and factual being.

To

between two senses of

speak of ideal being it is

is

to.

to speak of essence.

possible for things to exist in different ways, including existing

necessarily,

and

it

is

here appropriate to speak of degrees of being.

Factual being, however, to be or not to be."

is

said to be subject to the

Here the question

thing possesses, but whether

it

exists at

is

"Hamlet

that

an argument

like Spinoza's

dialectic,

not what kind of being a

all.

It

cannot be established

that a thing exists in the factual sense merely by considering all

argument

On Climacus' view, any success this argument

speak of what kind of being a thing possesses; It is

is

given in a footnote

is

argued that God, whose very nature

most perfect being, must a perfection.'*^

Postscript

argument that

can accomplish

is

its

essence;

to explore the

and Paradox

TTioMgfit, Passion,

nature of God's existence a profound tautology:

if

he does

"God, who

exist.

The argument amounts

The argument does not

but what he must be like

if

to

a necessary being, exists necessarily."

is

In effect, Climacus glosses this roughly as follows: "God, exists necessarily."

67

/

establish

he

if

exists,

God exists,

whether

he does.

Contemporary^ defenders of the ontoiogical argument would doubt-

makes

reply that the hypothetical clause in the above proposition

less

the proposition incoherent, since

contradictory to suppose that a

it is

necessary being might not exist. God's existence cannot be merely

contingent, since

if

God's existence

However, Climacus anticipates Leibniz that

it is

true that God's existence

but claims that this difficulty. "^^

I

amounts

still

is

then

it

believe.

I

necessary'

to a tautology

is

He

necessary'.^^

agrees with possible,

if it is

and "circumvents the

we do not really know we know that he actually

think he means by this that

whether God's existence exists.

possible,

is

this reply,

is

possible unless

The ontoiogical argument then, on Climacus' view,

is

a perfect

example of what can and cannot be established by conceptual argument.

We can elucidate what what

is

contained in a concept but we cannot establish

exists.

Now

it

must be conceded that

in

ordmary

life

the existence of things as established by argument.

we do often regard The physicist cites

evidence for the existence of a hitherto unknown subatomic particle. The astronomer cites evidence for the existence of a hitherto unknown planet. The neighbor argues that a burglar exists on the block by citing the pattern of break-ins that have occurred recently.

On

Climacus'

view, these arguments for the existence of something are misnamed,

and we are speaking loosely

in

such cases.

that a something, assumed to exist,

is

that a particular astronomical body

unknown person

is

in fact a burglar.

that a particular concept applies to

However,

it is

is

at all.

not to

in fact a is

subatomic

clear,

do

show

is

particle, or

an

We are really giving a justification some

existing reality.

is

is

right about this.

It

does

not about whether an existing

rightly described as a planet or not, but about

Whether

really

in fact a planet, or that

not obvious that Climacus

appear at times that the argument

"X"

What we

whether "X"

exists

or not Climacus senses the force of this objection

but in any case he does shift ground.

God for cases like the subatomic particle and

The analog with

is

respect

the planet are arguments

68

PASSIONATE REASON

/

that the works of

CUmacus

God

in nature provide evidence for

moves from

quickly

his general, a priori

more

natural theology to a consideration of

ments such

arguments, as

we

specific, empirical argu-

argument from design. The

as the

shall see, are of a

Critique of the

God's existence.

argument against

he has of such

criticisms

wholly different kind.

Argument from Design

Climacus does not bother to give

a precise statement of

what

is

generally called the argument from design, but that does not matter

too much, for he

is

ments

not a specific version.

in general,

really criticizing the inspiration

He wants

behind such argu-

to consider

or not God's existence can be inferred from God's works, "the in nature

happy

and the goodness or wisdom

to accept the tautology that the works of

do not immediately not

obvious to

that

nature as

it

I

wisdom

Governance."" Climacus

in

want

is

god can only be done

how we

by the god, but he then goes on to wonder

works of god. "The works from which

whether

identify those

to prove his existence

exist."^^

The wisdom and goodness

in nature are

The

starting-point of the proof

is

us.

immediately appears to

us,

not simply

but nature interpreted according

work of God. Climacus

to a certain ideal, nature understood as the

argues that the acceptance of such an ideal interpretation of nature

is

equivalent to "presupposing that the god exists." Thus, the belief in

God which

the proof

is

supposed to support

way around.

proof, rather than the other

Climacus

says, that

so,

if

argument, then religious life

my

is

only because of

this,

can have any confidence in the argument, daring

1

to "defy all objections,

were not

actually supporting the

is

It

even those that have not yet

God

faith in

really rested

arisen." If this

on such an empirical

could not have the kind of confident belief the

I

demands,

for

would be continually

I

that "something so terrible

happen

in suspense, worried

[the Holocaust?] that

my

fragment

of proof would be ruined."^"*

So a

far as

I

can

sound argument

What he or to be

of

some

denies

more

see,

for

is

Climacus does not

really

deny the

possibility of

God's existence from the works of God in nature.

that such an argument can be

precise, that

it

known

to be sound,

can be known to be sound independently

subjective faith. His real target

is

the notion that such a

and Paradox

Thougfir, Passion,

Once

rational proof could be a substitute for faith.

it is

/

69

conceded that

the recognition of such an argument requires faith and cannot be a substitute for

it,

Socrates, in fact,

he seems to have no objection

to such arguments.

taken as a model of the proper way to pursue such

is

argument

things. Socrates, the reputed inventor of the

"constantly presupposes that the god exists, and

on

in question,

this presupposition

seeks to infuse nature with the idea of purposiveness."-'

am

I

here using "faith" or "belief in one of

4 and 5 of the positive response of a

who

with the god

God

ordinary- senses,

it

has become human. In speaking of the proofs of

as requiring faith,

of a premise that

its

when speaking in chapters human being to an encounter

not in the special sense Climacus gives

is

I

mean

only that they require the acceptance

not self-evident or undeniable, or perhaps the

adoption of a way of seeing the world which

equivalent to accepting

is

such a premise. Regardless of the merits of any of the other criticisms of natural theology- given by Climacus, his view here seems eminently

Arguments

defensible.

for

recognizable as sound, but

God's existence may be sound, and even it

does not seem true that such arguments

depend on premises that any sane, rational person who understands

them must fail

accept. Otherwise,

to accept It

is

why would

so

many

sane, rational persons

them?

worth noting that Climacus does not here conclude that no

God

"natural" knowledge of

have seen, assumes that

a

is

The

possible.

knowledge of God

Even the B hypothesis does not

rule out all

is

Socratic position, as

we

linked to self-knowledge.

knowledge of God. Although

from the point of view of the B hypothesis, the kind of knowledge of

God

that

is

equivalent to knowing the Truth

beings, this by to

know

that

no means

God

exists

implies that

is

not possible for

human

human beings

and some things about God. The B perspective

requires us only to hold that whatever

available

is

impossible for

it is

knowledge of

this sort that

not sufficient for "salvation." Such a knowledge about

does not amount to knowing the Truth. arguing for the truth of the

B

perspective

Of

on

course Climacus

is

is

God not

this issue, but considering

that perspective "hypothetically." Nevertheless, the critique of natural

theology given here

is

quite compatible with the view Climacus devel-

ops at length in Postscript, which

is

that a natural religious

Religiousness A, which involves an awareness of God,

is

life,

termed

possible for

70

PASSIONATE REASON

/

human beings, without any requirement of any special revelation from God. The view attacked in chapter 3 of Fragments is the claim of reason to develop an understanding of God that can function independently of the individual's subjective participation in the religious life. The target is not natural awareness of God but objective, speculative proofs of God.

The conclusion tive.

Human

of the discussion of natural theology

beings, relying

on

then nega-

is

their speculative, rational powers,

can

explore the consequences of various concepts of the divine, which in effect to say

what would be

correct. Alternatively, they

true

if

onstratively compelling by accepting a premise that certain.

Climacus says that in the

from the proof by a

leap."^^

latter case

This

is

is

not dem-

not objectively

"the existence

itself emerges

the only use in Fragments of the

is

famous Kierkegaard ian concept of the about the notion of the leap

God was

a certain conception of

can accept an argument which

leap.

We

shall say

much more

connection with the discussion

later, in

of belief and the will in the Interlude between chapters 4 and talk of a leap

is

Here

5.

seems merely to be a way of indicating that the individual

has contributed something of a personal nature to the knowing enterprise.

Climacus compares

doll that rights itself

this personal contribution to letting

when

it

is

released.

He

go of a

says that so long as

I

am

engaged in proving God's existence, "the existence does not emerge, if I

for let

no other reason than that

I

am

go of the proof, the existence

to say the least, but

I

is

engaged in proving

it,

there."" This passage

think the view that underlies

it is

but is

when

obscure,

something

like

the following:

Both

in Fragments

and

Postscript

Climacus seems to hold the view

that a natural awareness of God's reality

awareness

is

is

possible.'^

However,

this

gained, not through objective speculation, but subjectively,

in the course of existing. Proofs of

God's existence owe whatever force

they have to this natural awareness of God's

conviction as this which

is

illustrated

reality;

it

is

such a

by Socrates' procedure of "infusing

nature with the idea of purposiveness" and thus constructing the

argument from design. However,

it

is

Climacus' view that objective

speculation and subjective existence are opposite and incompatible

movements. Thus, to the extent that existence,

I

I

try to speculatively

prove God's

make God's reality appear doubtful by removing myself

Thought, Passion, and Paradox

from the existential standpoint which actually for

offers assurance.

God's existence to "emerge from a proof,"

proof"; that

remove myself from the

is,

71

/

must

I

"let

Thus,

go of the

indifferent standpoint of the

disinterested speculator and take up once more the standpoint of the

Only

concretely existing person, replete with interests and passions.

from

can

this standpoint

accept the

1

premise or premises the proof this letting

rests

go of the proof,

is

less

than objectively certain

upon. This existential movement,

thus what Climacus

means here by

a leap.

CAN THE UNKNOWN

KNOWN?

BE

we can now

After this extended look at natural theology,

return to

Climacus' central concern, the quest of reason to discover something that thought cannot think.

It

looks as

the failure of natural theology

if

might actually be of some positive use to reason in reason

now

and which

define the it

unknown

as that

therefore unable to

is

which

this quest.

Cannot

absolutely different,

is

know? And would not such

a

recognition imply a kind of negative knowledge of the god? Climacus recognizes

how tempting

this

move

is,

but rejects

says that "defined as the absolutely different, to be at the point of being disclosed, but

it

not

nonetheless.

it

Ithe so."^^

that the understanding cannot really conceive of

He

unknown] seems

The

what

is

difficulty

is

"absolutely

different."

The understanding lides," "reaches,"

and

in "is

its

"paradoxical passion" continually "col-

engaged" with the unknown, and yet the

unknown remains unknown. The unknown is a "frontier" or "boundary" {Graendse) to reason. As such, the unknown is, one might say, a reality in the

life

unknown.

of reason, a factor in It is

like a

something must

its

activities,

but

it

nevertheless remains

place-holder in mathematics, an indication that

exist to

that something must be.

fill

the space, with no understanding of what

Having teased

us by calling the

unknown

"the

god" and going on to examine the traditional proofs of God's existence,

Climacus returns to his serious claim that "the god"

and the name therefore It

is

"just a

is

unknown

to us,

name."

appears that the understanding might be able to

make some

72

PASSIONATE REASON

/

progress toward understanding the "absolutely different," but Climacus says that this

itself,

not

is

when

says that

so.

With more than

the understanding

the result

is

conceive of the

god

idolatry, in that the

echo of Feuerbach, he

a little

tries to

is

unknown by own

manufactured in our

image:

The understanding cannot even cannot absolutely negate

think the absolutely different;

but uses

itself

consequently thinks the difference in transcend

itself

scendence that

and therefore thinks thinks by

it

solely the frontier,

with the

The

many

above

itself

unknown

the

only the tran-

(the god)

then the one idea about the different

is

is

idea here seems to be that the understanding confuses

what

is

candidates supplied by the imagination for what

and here Climacus

what

is

The content from among the

only relatively different.

of the "frontier" gets filled in by the reason, selecting

divine,

not

confused

ideas about the different."

absolutely different with

many

it

and

cannot absolutely

itself,.... It

as

itself. If

that purpose

itself for

mind the

calls to

is

genuinely

incredible diversity in

conceptions of god that are found in various cultures, especially pagan cultures.'^

own image

Manufacturing god in our in that

it

in

one sense comfortable,

allows us to select a god which suits

really secure in playing this

game

is

requires a certain degree of self-deception

because

it

is

at

bottom aware of the

confusion "does not

know

we cannot be

quest for

its

To

play this

part of reason,

one

In reality the understanding its

own

boundary, and in

and quite consistently confuses

itself

with the difference." Climacus

on the

arbitrariness in selecting

conception of god rather than another. has become "confused" by

but

us,

game, according to Climacus.

calls this situation

its

itself

"the self-ironizing of

the understanding,"^^ probably one of the more obscure phrases in the

whole of Kierkegaard's authorship. exactly what this self-ironizing

is

reason in manufacturing gods in

becoming so confused that

it

It

is

its

occupies a superior standpoint.

itself

A

itself

me

clear, to

own image

confuses

be absolutely different, makes

not

supposed to be.

Is

it

at

any

rate,

the activity of

Perhaps reason, in

with what

is

supposed to

appear ironical to someone

second possibility

is

who

that the self-

ironizing of the understanding refers to reason's recognition of the

Thou^,

whole procedure. In

arbitrariness of the

would be an

Passion,

and Paradox

this case, the self-ironizing

ironical recognition of the problematic character of reason's

attempt to transcend

itself.

However the phrase be understood, Climacus self'ironizing

tries to illustrate this

with a "sketch" of a situation that in some respects looks

curiously like the

He

73

/

B

hypothesis that he will focus on in chapters 4 and

who looks just human being, grows up as do other human beings," and so on, and yet "this human being is also the god."^^ How does Climacus know this? He says, "I cannot know it, for in that case I would have to know the god and the difference, and do not know the difference."^^ 5.

supposes that "there exists, then, a certain person

any other

like

I

I

think the point of this

knowing

simply to show the impossibility of rationally

is

conception of the divine, but Climacus uses

a particular

this

particular arbitrary conception of the god to underline the fact that

reason could not possibly

The conclusion Reason

in

boundary

like

the

B

falls

it

into perplexity about

at a it

depth

and even has an awareness of

level. It

has formed

failure

is

on the

is

its

own

However, when

itself.

attempts to gain any positive knowledge of this frontier, capriciously

hypothesis.

quest for self-knowledge naturally confronts

its

as

come up with anything

of the matter seems to be something like this:

it

it

behaves

this capriciousness, at least

aware that the idea of the "absolutely different"

not really altogether different.

part of reason

is

far

The

recognition of this

from actually forming a concept of

the unknown, but in the postulated encounter between reason and the

god of the B hypothesis,

it is

not without significance,

as

we

shall see.

THE PARADOX OF THE GOD'S SELF-REVELATION In the last section of chapter 3 the interlocutor reappears and

becomes

clear

"sketch" Climacus has

human being

whom we tation:

is

it

finally

where the whole discussion has been going. The

made

of the god

who

final

looks just like an ordinary

sufficient to exhaust the patience of the dialogue partner

have already met several times, and he bursts in with

"You

are a spinner of whimsicalities, that

you certainly do not believe that

it

would occur

I

to

know

me

full well,

to be

irri-

but

concerned

74

PASSIONATE REASON

/

whim

about a

so strange or so ridiculous that

occurred to anyone and, above

have to lock everything

all,

have in

I

is

"whim" he has

in several key respects,

human

beings,

and

is

is

B

As we

hypothesis

something that does appear unreasonable to

and even "ridiculous" from a

He does make one jab respondent's own assessment of

that the

basically agreement.

suggested, resembling the

certain perspective.

no means completely

would

I

consciousness out in order to

certainly "strange"

is

probably has never

so unreasonable that

my

think of it."" Climacus' response to this shall see, the

it

objective.

The

at the interlocutor

by noting

his rational capacities

idea that the interlocutor

is

is

by of-

fended by the requirement that he "lock everything out of his consciousness" shows that the respondent has presuppositions to which he

attached, despite his presumption "to think about... [his] conscious-

is

ness without presuppositions."^^ Despite this jab, Climacus wants to say to the interlocutor: "It

of

my

is

exactly as you say; you can't

make any

sense

idea."

The reason for this is simple: If the god is truly absolutely different from human beings, then this is not something human beings will be able to figure out for themselves. The god must teach it to them. "If it [the understanding] is going to come to know this, it must come to

know

from the

this

god."^*^

Climacus goes on, however, to

state a

come to know this, it cannot understand come to know this." So the understanding cannot this and consequently cannot come to know the god as absolutely different by itself nor with stronger thesis. "If

the god's help.

At

it

does

this point,

Climacus

says,

"we seem

to stand at a

paradox. '"^^

What to gain

is

this

If

the problem

is

simply that there

is

believe,

one human

from the

desire, but

fact that there

is

no paradox. The paradox arises, a sense in which human beings

can come to know the god by revelation. As Climacus puts purpose of God's self-revelation

understand

him."'*'

The problem

So

lies in

turns out to be I

it

is

is

one who

it,

the

to allow the. learner "to completely

known at all. known in this way

not that the god cannot be

the fact that the god in a sense

believe that Climacus

"know"

no way

any understanding of the god, then there would seem to be

frustration of I

paradox?

is

who

is

cannot be known.

in this

second assertion using the word

in a special, philosophical sense.

To

say that the god could be

Thou^t, Passim, and Paradox

known

to say that

is

75

/

he could be assimilated into our previous stock

show that the knowledge we humans claim to know.

of beliefs and convictions; that one could

of

him could be derived from other

In

things

claiming that the god cannot be known, even after he has revealed himself, Climacus

is

claiming that the god's self-revelation

not some-

is

Not only could the god on their

thing that can be appropriated and then dispensed with.

human

beings not have discovered the true nature of

own; even

after the

something that

and

beliefs.

is

god has revealed himself, what

revealed

is

is

discontinuous with our existing stock of knowledge

The god cannot be mastered and domesticated and

his self-

revelation remains our only channel to apprehend him. In short, the

knowledge which the god makes possible bumps up against what earlier

termed the imperialistic character of reason. Insofar

consists of mastery, the

This, however,

is

god

who

is

knowledge

as

absolutely different cannot be

known.

compatible with saying that in an ordinary, unphi-

losophical sense of the

word "know," when the god reveals himself

absolutely different, the learner, at least satisfied,

I

can come to know the god

when

as

certain conditions are

as absolutely different.

What is the nature of this absolute difference between the god and human beings? Here much nonsense has been written on the assumption that Climacus has in mind a metaphysical difference. Thus, many have assumed that the problem is that God is supposed to be infinite, eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, and so on, and that these are qualities that are so different

from their

human

analogs that

human

beings cannot

understand them. However, Climacus says very clearly that he has

nothing in

like this in

human

different

mind

from a

owes to the god

human

The

absolute difference does not if

the god

being, this can not have

(for to that

to himself.... What then It is

at all.

finitude per se, but in sin: "But

is

its

is

lie

to be absolutely

basis in

what man

extent they are akin) but in what he owes

the difference? Indeed, what else but

sin therefore that lies at the basis of the

know God on our own, and at the basis we come to know God through God's

human

sin.'"*^

inability to

of the paradox that even self-revelation,

"know" God. Climacus obviously thinks

we

still

when

do not

that sin has rather profound

epistemological implications, or, to take account of the hypothetical

form of

his work,

implication.

It

is

he thinks that the B hypothesis requires such an sin that distinguishes the

B

hypothesis from the

76

PASSIONATE REASON

/

Socratic view of things, even the Socrates to

know

himself. In beginning his

who

recognizes his inability

"poem" Climacus distinguished

hypothesis from the Socratic view by supposing that untruth.

come

Now,

some meanderings,

after

same point

to the

again.

becomes

it

humans

clear that

"we have

'"^^

Socrates discovered "otherness" and "difference" of a

made him "almost bewildered about

discovery

Socrates lacked "the consciousness of

sin,

The

sort.

himself." Nevertheless,

which he could no more

teach to any other person than any other person could teach

This

him.""*"^

why

is

his

are in

it

to

the paradox with which Socrates collides turns out

known or understood."^^ Chapter the closest analogs within the field of human reason to of sin, namely the failure of human beings to gain any

to be merely "intimated" but not really

3 has explored

the realization

knowledge of the god and the resultant bewilderment of our

own

nature

is

divine."^^

is

encounter with what

relatively different

be that what

alistic

reason

is

is

is

is

When

an en-

genuinely different and other occurs, the result

given a hard knock. is

Our

other

is

revelation, says Climacus.

It

we

"presupposition" that

are

put into question. This hard

knock which imparts the consciousness of cannot be the

sin

must be imparted by

result of Socratic reflection,

from the point of view of the B hypothesis.

Thus chapter least

and other.

encountered cannot be mastered or tamed. Imperi-

capable of assimilating what

at least

This encounter with

"other," turns out to be, however, only an

the different, with what

will

paradox

confronted, not knowing whether we are monsters

more curious than Typhon or something

counter with what

as the

3

is

an extended "repetition" of chapters

1

and

2.

At

begins where those chapters begin, with the Socratic view of

it

the Truth, and ends where they end, with a sketch of a dramatically different alternative, the

an understanding of

ignorance it

hypothesis. Chapter 3 attempts to describe

reason as not only unable to attain the Truth, but unable to

human attain

B

lacks

is

one

its

inability to attain the truth. Socratic

the closest approximation to this latter understanding, but thing: the consciousness of sin.

The

interlocutor

is

quite

right to exclaim that he cannot understand the story of the god that is

spun out by the B hypothesis. The content of the hypothesis

the god

is

which he

what is

is

absolutely different from

unable to understand.

him and

thus

it

is is

that

that

Thou^t,

now

Climacus

77

/

begins to refer to the content of the hypothesis

regularly as "the paradox."

a term

It is

postpone a thorough treatment of

would be helpful

and Paradox

Passion,

he uses

learner,

in several ways.

We

will

until later, but a brief introduction

The term

at this point.

between the god and the

it

and

used both for the relation

is

becoming

for the god's action in

a

human

being to be our teacher. In both of these contexts, the paradox

is

said to

have a "double aspect."

the

B

When the term

hypothesis, at the end of chapter 3,

it

is

is first

the relationship which

seems to be the primary focus of concern. The paradox to the

god

is

god

is

is

is

that a relation

make any

established by an encounter that seems to

relation impossible, or, to put

of the god

used to describe

it

knowledge

in epistemological terms,

made possible by the discovery that no knowledge of the The natural question at this point is whether any sense

possible.

can be made of such a paradox.

It is

to this very issue that

Climacus

turns.

REASON'S AMBIVALENT RESPONSE TO THE PARADOX The

question Climacus poses

"conceivable.'"^^

thought?")

(Literally,

One might

is

whether a "paradox such

"does such a paradox allow

cannot understand. However,

as

if

response

on the

It is

is

is

is

be

obvious,

one that reason

he anticipates our quick response,

Climacus warns us not to be in a hurry, since but correctness."

itself to

think that the answer to this question

since Climacus has already told us that this paradox

as this"

"it

is

not speed that wins

true that there are weighty reasons for a negative

part of reason:

The understanding certainly cannot think it, cannot hit upon it on its own, and when it is proclaimed, the understanding cannot understand

it

and merely detects that

the understanding has

It is

much

it

will likely

to object

be

its

downfall. Insofar,

to,..."*^

evident from this that reason has plenty of grounds for hostility

to the

B

hypothesis, yet

it is

just as

evident that this inability of reason

to "understand" the paradox does not settle the question of it

is

possible to "think" or "conceive" the paradox.

whether

78

On

PASSIONATE REASON

/

CUmacus

the other side of the coin,

that "yet, in

tells us

paradoxical passion the understanding does indeed will

which

fall,"

is

what the paradox

mutual understanding," which

we have

of passion. "'^'^ Here

which

is

is,

own down-

its

and thus "the two have a

wills also,

however, "present only in the

returned to the

its

initial

moment

theme of the chapter,

reason's paradoxical passion to discover

own

its

downfall, a

passion that inspires Socrates' quest for self-knowledge, but which the Socratic paradox does not adequately

B hypothesis. At quest,

we saw

imperialistic reason as

limit, a limit to

which

points of chapter 3

it

engaged in a quest for

feels a natural

we have

ambivalence.

discovered

discover that which

Now

is

that might

make

lision" of Socrates

hypothesis;

fails;

reason cannot on

it

a

something in the nature of reason

different,

harmonious relationship

possible.

with the paradox of self-knowledge

The

lacks the consciousness of sin.

namely that reason

which

is

itself

is

When

reason

is

"col-

made

is

However, by looking

it

at the

gained which

is

cannot on

is

its

own produce

gripped by this "passion" then a happy

between reason and the paradox

collides with the

The

not the B

capable of desiring a collision with

absolutely different, though

such a collision.

is

true collision

Socratic analog, an insight into reason's character

relation

its

a possible meeting ground

is

possible by the god's self-revelatory action.

that

own

a further point of the chapter emerges. Understanding this

between reason and the

valuable,

its

of the main

genuinely other or absolutely different.

quest of reason helps us to see that there

itself

One

that the quest of reason to

is

discover that which thought cannot think

own

according to the

satisfy, at least

the beginning of the chapter, in looking at the Socratic

is

possible.

paradox of the B hypothesis, which

When

reason

not merely

is

we saw in looking evidence. The negative

"intimated" but actual, the two ambivalent responses at the Socratic collision are still very

reaction of reason to the paradox

understand, but that

Climacus

tries

is

is

much

in

easy to anticipate and easy to

merely one of the two

possibilities.

to explain the ambivalence of reason toward the

paradox by using what he admits erotic love.

is

The happy

is

an imperfect "metaphor," namely

possible relationship

between reason and

faith

explicated in an extended proportional analogy, in which reason

said to be related to faith as self-love basis of love, but at

its

is

is

to love. "Self-love lies at the

highest point wills precisely

its

own

destruction.

Thou^t,

This

is

what love wants

The thought which

agreement

in

of passion, and this passion

Ues behind this

79

/

two powers are

too, so these

moment

with each other in the

and Paradox

Passion,

precisely

is

think, that there

is

often a tension between self-love and genuine love, but the tension

is

love."^^

not a necessary one. basis of the love

their

own

is

a person falls in love, the initial ground or

people

self-love;

happiness.

in love, self-love

When

is

I

is,

in love because they are seeking

fall

The paradox

is

that

when

they genuinely do

transcended, dethroned, as

it

were.

fall

The person

gains happiness in sacrificing happiness for the sake of the loved one.

Thus,

when genuine

love

is

present, love

Climacus thinks that there relation

between the understanding and

understanding

dethroned;

is

it

the understanding will have in the grip of self-love

that there at the

may

a sense in

is

and

itself desires;

be rational, at

is

3 but soon to be termed "faith."

and

its

to emphasize that

I

it

is

is

is

a kind of

fulfills self-love.

unnamed

shall say a great deal

relation to the understanding.

when

it

under certain conditions, those

least

Here

in chapter

more about it

is

enough

present, reason evidently can conceive

the paradox in some sense, even while it

that degree

that the recognition of the limits

conditions being the presence of a certain passion,

this passion

"To

which the dethroning of the understanding

clear implication of this itself

limits.

"shrink from love."^^ Yet Climacus suggests

fulfillment of the understanding, just as love

of reason can

its

to object to," just as a selfish person

same time what the understanding

The

In faith the imperialistic

faith.

must recognize

much

self-love are united.

a significant analogy here to the

is

it

continues to

fail

to understand

in another. Climacus' analogy also implies that the alternative to

this passion that

makes

on with each other

is

it

possible for reason

and the paradox to get

not a neutral, dispassionate stance, but a rival

passion, a passion analogous to that of the "selfish lover

from love." This faith

rival passion

Climacus

and offense seem possible

grounded in

its

will

for reason;

who

shrinks

soon term "offense." Both

both are in some sense

very character. Each in a sense can only properly be

understood in contrast with

its rival.

It is

proper then, that Climacus

devotes an appendix to chapter 3 to exploring this negative, hostile passion before looking in detail at faith. in the next chapter.

We

shall look at this analysis

CHAPTER THE ECHO OF OFFENSE

Climacus adds an appendix to chapter 3 that discusses in some

detail

the nature of reason's passionate rejection of the paradox, a passion he

now is

terms offense.

be very

will

obvious that

It is

common.

It is

not a universal response.

been so taken with

who

this

thinks that this response

Some

Kierkegaard ian commentators have

concept that they have assumed that every^one

truly understands the

even an aspect of

CUmacus

important to recognize, however, that offense

paradox

will be offended, so that offense

faith, or at least that

it is

is

something that the person

of faith must have passed through and surmounted. However, at the

end of the appendix

to chapter 3

including TertuUian and

Climacus describes

Hamann, who

group of people,

a

describe the paradox in the

language used by offense, but are not themselves "the offended ones but the very ones

who

held firmly to the paradox."'

this that offense

and

faith are mutually exclusive responses,

follows that

Though

if

faith

and

is

not universal,

it

common

was certainly

Climacus' day and remains so in our own. There

is

much

sometimes "postmodernity" has brought about. believe that traditional Christian faith has

was already

for

in Climacus' day,

used varied somewhat.

The appendix

implicit response to this kind of thing. still

thought-experiment,

or.

people seem to

become more

difficult or

an educated, thoughtful person today. Similar

common

that Christianity,

Many

in

talk today

about "secularization," and the decline of faith which "modernity"

even impossible

it

a possibility, offense will not be universal.

is

offense

evident from

It is

talk

though the particular words

to chapter 3

is,

Climacus takes

I

it

believe,

an

for granted

presented hypothetically in the guise of his

now

briefly

summarized

as the paradox, will

be

The Echo of Offense regarded as absurd by many, perhaps most, people.

appendix

that

is

this

fact

is

but rather a confirmation of for those

who

not its

itself a

are familiar with the

found in Kierkegaard's

literature,

The

thrust of the

reason to doubt Christianity,

Recognizing this

truth.

81

/

contempt

may be

difficult

for apologetics often

but a careful reading makes the point

emphatically clear, while at the same time explaining

why Climacus

rejects traditional attempts to argue for the truth of Christian faith.

The answer to those who believe that modern forms of thought have made it particularly difficult to believe in Christianity is that there is nothing particularly "modem" about the difficulty. Climacus thinks that

has always been true that "the understanding cannot get

it

the paradox into

its

head,,"^

and notes that the paradox

fully

the understanding to regard this fact as a problem, though

it

expects

is

hardly

a problem from the point of view of the paradox. Actually, to be more precise, the negative response of reason to the

been present;

to say that

paradox has not "always"

not only to forget the option of faith but

is

to forget the historical character of the paradox. Since offense

response to the paradox, is

a historical

it

follows that offense, like the paradox

phenomenon.

It

has not always existed, but has

is

a

itself,

come

The difficulty of believing the paradox much less the twentieth centur>', but is inherent in the paradox itself. As soon as we have the paradox we have offense, and as long as we have the paradox, offense into existence with the paradox.^

has nothing to do with the nineteenth century,

remains possible.

The whole

of the appendix

presented as a kind of dialogue

is

between reason and the paradox, each personified It is,

for literary purposes.

however, a peculiar kind of dialogue, in which the claims of one

partner, the understanding, are asserted by the paradox to be echoes

of

what the paradox has already

possible

is

said.

The

"acoustic illusion" this makes

understanding in reality originate with the paradox. is

merely a source of echoes, but

originator of

This

come from the The understanding

simply that the outbursts that appear to

its

"I said

it

somehow

assertions, a claim that the it

first"

argument

swiftly degenerates, as

phal has said, into a name-calling contest."*

what one would regard

takes itself to be the

paradox indignantly denies.

Hence

as intellectual discourse

Merold West-

the dialogue

on the highest

is

not

plane.

82

A

PASSIONATE REASON

/

certain mutual disrespect marks the encounter, and understanding

the nastiness

is

crucial to understanding the point of the appendix.

to say that Climacus clearly seems to side with the paradox

It is fair

and describes the

in the mud-slinging contest

At

view.

from

its

point of

times this strains the reader's ability to hold on to the literary

perspective that Climacus

no concern

here, with

is

simply engaging in a thought-experiment

for truth.

We

there are ample reasons in chapters

Climacus

battle

detached

as

is

as

have already seen, however, that

and 2

1

for questioning

whether

he claims, particularly with respect to the

"proofs" Climacus offers for the correctness of his hypothesis at the

conclusions of those chapters.

The appendix

has the same flavor, and

indeed Climacus speaks of the offended consciousness as "an indirect the correctness of the paradox."^

test of

The

reader can continue to

play along with Climacus' game, and indeed

is

do

invited to

so by

occasional reminders of the hypothetical character of the enterprise,

but

increasingly hard not to feel as

it is

Already in chapter point, since

1

we saw

if

one

is

being ironically teased.

a problem with Climacus' literary stand-

he seems to understand things which he should not be

able to understand unless he

is

himself one of the god's disciples. In

the appendix the irony once more seems a bit translucent, transparent. faith

is

One

of the claims Climacus will

if

not

offense

and

that they are the only possible responses to the paradox.

and indifference

trality

make about

are either impossible or illusory. Since

Neu-

Climacus

does not appear to be offended, there are good reasons once more for seeing

him

as a

person of

our

leg, a serious

in a

new

we have

light,

faith,

whose

literary

joke that helps us see

or perhaps reminds us of

a strong tendency to forget. In

and controversial claims about offense

form

is

a

way of

pulling

some things about Christianity some things about Christianity

what follows, will

several provocative

emerge, claims clearly made

from the perspective of the paradox.

THE PASSIVE CHARACTER OF OFFENSE The

general

theme of the appendix seems

understood as is

suffering.

a painful condition,

to be that offense

must be

Climacus does not mean primarily that offense

though that

is

certainly part of

it,

but that

it

is

The Echo of Offense

an

The term

essentially passive condition.

Hong

the

{lidelse),

translated as "suffering" in

common Danish noun

for

but an adjective formed from the verb at

lide

translation^ {lidende)

painful suffering

83

/

not the

is

That

(to let or allow) that emphasizes passivity.

is,

offense

is

something

that the understanding suffers or undergoes as a result of the activity

of the paradox.

The

sense in which offense

clear that

is

passive

is

not easy to determine.

is

Climacus does not mean that offense

simply happens to the understanding, and over which

he

for

says that offense

offended consciousness

has no control,

The

not completely inactive, and in fact the

between various cases of offense allows

differences in degree of activity

him

it

"always an action, not an event.

is is

It

something that

is

can be made between active and passive

to claim that a distinction

forms of offense, while keeping in mind that

all

forms are essentially

passive. I

think the basic sense of passivity in mind here can best be grasped

by looking

name-calling contest. Reason begins the contest by

at the

calling the paradox the absurd.

The paradox

these words were taken right out of

what a

it

has heard.

blockhead and

a

Of

dunce

it

The encounter

response of reason

is

is

it is

is

paradox, but a response that

clear that reason

of

itself as

So reason

just as

active. Its

is

itself

is

active, but

is

not only a response to the

its

activity

learned from the paradox but

is

now

originator.

Climacus

suggests.

is

one that reason

The understanding

itself is

wishes to think

the discoverer of the paradox's absurdity, the objective

tribunal that has tried the paradox

and

is

initiated by the paradox. TTie initial

This claim of the passivity of reason likely to deny,

is

a problem.^

the paradox that sets the terms

unoriginal and lacks spontaneity. Offense

its

is

an imitation of the paradox, something revealed

to reason in the encounter.

turned against

merely echoing

is

the absurd, but reason

is

for thinking this

In this exchange of epithets

responds by insisting that

mouth. Reason

course the paradox

passivity consists in the fact that

of the encounter.

its

and found

it

wanting. Alternatively,

repugnant from the point of view of the paradox, the

understanding "takes pity upon the paradox" and

"assists

explanation."^ In both cases the understanding presumes

judge of the acceptability of Christian faith.

it

to

itself to

From Climacus'

an

be a

perspective.

84 far

/

PASSIONATE REASON

from the knowledgeable judge, the understanding here plays the mimic, or perhaps a

role of a

way what

distorted

it

standing seems to deceive it

is

who

caricaturist,

itself,

merely copies in a

Even worse, the under-

learns from the paradox.

or at least to be unconscious of what

doing.

REASON COMPETENT TO EVALUATE

IS

CHRISTIAN FAITH? The

response of Climacus to the claim reason makes to be a competent

evaluator of Christianity

is

interesting but controversial. Insofar as

we

name "philosophy" to human thinking which aims at truth through rational reflection, we could describe the issue as bearing on the relation of Christianity to philosophy. The strength of his position is that it allows him to concede unchallenged the correctness of certain criticisms commonly made against Christianity, by arguing that these give the

criticisms are not really objections.

What

the critics say

is

correct, but

they are incorrect in thinking that what they say constitutes an objection to Christian faith.

The true,

logic of his position

then

human

is

essentially as follows: If Christianity

is

beings lack the Truth, and must have the Truth

brought to them by the god. However, since they lack the Truth, the

Truth when brought to them must be what challenges and breaks with their established patterns of thinking.

appears absurd

when

what one would expect

if

Christianity

Christianity appears absurd to reason is

in fact a confirmation of

There

is

Hence the

fact that Christianity

evaluated by those patterns of thought

its

true.

is is

exactly

is

Therefore, the fact that

no reason

to think

it

false;

it

truth.

a defensible point in this argument, but

that must be carefully qualified. In general,

I

think

I

it is

is

one

right that

one

think

it

of the characteristics one would expect to find in a true revelation of

the god,

have

it

if it

were the case that humans lack the Truth and need to

brought to them, would be that

it

would challenge and correct

our previous ways of thinking. Hence the fact that Christianity appears

when

and not

a

negative, though obviously this confirmation of Christianity's claims

is

unreasonable to

us, at least

first

considered,

is

a plus

The Echo of Offense not a proof.

It is

confirmation, but the weak kind of confirmation in

which one of the consequences of

shown

and hence

obviously

many

account for views that

The view,

is

has passed a test of

it

would be discon-

However, there are

sorts.

other things besides the truth of Christianity that could

many

appearing unreasonable, and there are

its

may seem

ableness.

it

other rival

equally unreasonable.

chief difficulty with Climacus' argument, from that

been

Christianity's being true has

to hold. If things were otherwise, Christianity

firmed,

85

/

my

point of

collapses together too quickly different kinds of unreason-

There

unreasonable to

are indeed

human

some ways

in

which Christianity

will

appear

beings that are a consequence of our sinfulness.

For example, in both Sickness Unto Death and Training

in Christianity,

Anti-Climacus, another Kierkegaardian pseudonym, suggests that Christianity appears unreasonable because

part of

God

for us that

we

it

postulates a kind of love

understand.'^ In effect our

own

able to us that such love

is

lack of love

a reality.

makes

With

our sinfulness, and the fact that

people

is

just

it

The

fact that Chris-

indeed a consequence of

appears unreasonable to unloving

what one would expect

the appropriate response to a critic

is

appear unreason-

it

respect to this sort of

unreasonableness Climacus' argument makes sense. tianity appears unreasonable in this case

on the

comprehend or

ourselves lack and cannot

if

Christianity

who makes

is

true. In this case

the charge of unreason-

"Of make

ableness would seem to be just the one Climacus recommends:

course

it

seems unreasonable to you and

it

should."

To

try to

Christianity acceptable to a "cultured despiser" of this sort by modifying it

would be a

betrayal.

However, there are other ways Christianity has been alleged to be unreasonable for which this sort of response does not seem quite so evidently right. Suppose, for example, that

objection that

someone puts forward an

rooted in a misunderstanding of Christianity. For

is

example, imagine that someone has gotten the idea that Christianity teaches that God,

who

is

supremely good and loving, loves some

human

beings but hates others. Surely in such a case the proper response

not to say that say that

but after

God all,

is

"It

is

exactly as you say; of course

it is

is

unreasonable to

supremely loving and yet does not love some people,

Christianity

is

would be to explain to the

unreasonable." Rather, the best response

critic that his

objection

is

faulty because

it

86

PASSIONATE REASON

/

is

rooted in a confusion or mistake of some kind. This sort of response

is

not so

much

a matter of putting reason in

The defender

of using reason. to

why

it

when

incompetent when

as

it

it

interesting case,

it

seems to me,

may

is

is

It

purposes and

would appear that

competent

one

a matter

is

it

well inquire as

suits one's

it

does not.

some principled way of deciding when reason

The most

place as

of rational scrutiny

legitimate to use reason

is

then dismiss

its

in

needed.

is

which the

claims that Christianity involves a logical contradiction and

critic

thus

is

Many commentators have in fact thought that what Climacus himself claims when he says that the as a human is a paradox.'^ In the next chapter will

repugnant to reason.

was precisely

this

god's incarnation

give a

full

a paradox,

tation

I

treatment of what Climacus means by calling the incarnation

and

will argue that this "logical contradiction" interpre-

I

mistaken. Here

is

simply want to consider the implications of

I

viewing the paradox as such a contradiction, as well as some implications of an alternative view.

Let us suppose then that Climacus, or someone the incarnation

is

saying this can be imagined. For example,

God

essentially eternal,

is

else,

claims that

a formal, logical contradiction. Various reasons for

might be maintained that

it

omnipotent, and omniscient, and

human

beings are essentially nonetemal, and finite in knowledge and power.

Hence being

to say that a

is

human

being

God

is

is

to say that this

human

both eternal and nonetemal, limited and unlimited in knowl-

The

edge and power.

one cannot

philosopher-critic then appears and objects that

rationally believe a formal, logical contradiction,

Christianity must be rejected as false.

What

and that

should the Christian

sponse be? Suppose the Christian admits that the faith

is

re-

contradictory

and therefore absurd from the viewpoint of reason, but maintains that it

tianity

is

Such

and cannot apprehend the

logically absurd

is

arise

if

one sign of

its

hard to see

literally

it

this

Two

one

is

should be believed anyway.

how an abandonment

can be confined to

truth.

one admits that Christianity

tradictory but asserts that

then

in fact

truth.

a response seems a grave mistake to me.

seem insuperable

is

human reason is The fact that Chris-

should be believed anyway, presumably because

distorted by sin

area. If

anything can be

problems that con-

logically First

of

all, it

of the principles of formal logic

both "P" and "not P" can be

true.

One consequence

of this

is

true,

that

The Echo of Offense the careful thought-experiment of Climacus

whole work

and

its

assert

on

He

logical principles.

invalidated. Climacus'

is

attempts to "invent" a

coherent alternative to the Socratic position on the Truth

logically

on the

rests

87

/

acquisition.

The invention

basically a logical exercise, resting

is

policy that where Socrates asserts 'T" then the alternative must

"not P" and thus be genuinely different.

The

logical principle of

noncontradiction, which asserts that "P" and "not P" cannot both be true, underlies this policy.

The

fact that the

invented

invention

is

a bit of a ruse, since

what

is

supposedly

simply Christianity, in no way invalidates the significance

is

of logic for the enterprise, for Climacus clearly thinks that the logical relations

between Christianity and the Socratic view are such that the

two views are mutually exclusive. tradiction is

is

not valid,

no reason

if

there

is

even one exception

B

to think that the

the logical principle of noncon-

If

hypothesis

an

is

to

it,

then there

alternative to the

may be true simultaneously. In short, how Climacus can rely on logic to make his case that

Socratic view. Both

it is

see

Christianity

and idealism are mutually exclusive presents rests

on the notion

how dependent

sees clearly

the Christian alternative he

if

that logic

hard to

not valid. Climacus himself

is

his project

on

is

traditional logic

and

vigorously defends the validity of this kind of logic.

However, even more

significantly,

tradiction,

asking

me

then

it is

hard to see

to believe "P"

to believe nothing at

all.

If

I

assertion?

is

is

is

What

no man

not god.

is

man

to be god.

exactly

1

hard for

me

man

am

I

even

possible. For

is

God

is

God, and I

seem

to see

how

me

logically is

the

asked to believe? Suppose I

also believe that this

believe that

thus believe

god, and this would

It is

is

perilously close to asking

not God, then what exactly

logically contradictory because

impossible for a that

is

to say that a

believe that Jesus of Nazareth was

belief

recognized as a logical con-

is

such belief

and "not P"

equivalent to saying that he

meaning of the

how

belief in Christianity requires

if

which

belief in a logical contradiction

it

it

is

logically

to be a necessary truth

to imply that Jesus of Nazareth I

can believe

all

these things

simultaneously without confusion or self-deception. Clear-headed belief in a logical contradiction does not

The

contrary opinion that

is

seem psychologically

evidently held by

possible.

many Kierkegaardian

commentators who have interpreted the paradox

as a logical contra-

88

PASSIONATE REASON

/

diction seems to

me

on confusing the

to rest

idea of believing a logical

contradiction with the very different notion of believing something

which appears

to be logically contradictory. This

should be understood. believe that

incidentally, as

is,

some

It is

state of affairs that appears contradictory

For example, a materialist on the mind-body problem thinking physical brain thing

may appear

thought

is

I

how Climacus' notion of the paradox not uncommon or difficult for someone to

next chapter,

shall argue in the

a reality.

is

may hold

that a

a reality, even though the idea of such a

is

contradictory to a dualist committed to the idea that

an immaterial process necessarily carried on by an immaterial

substance. But of course in committing himself to the reality of such a thinking brain, the materialist

contradiction in such a state of

commits himself

affairs

is

may appear

In a similar way, though the incarnation

many

dictory to

is

is

is

committed

who

actually

to the claim that the contra-

only apparent and not genuine. "X appears to John to be P"

logically consistent

Now

logically contra-

people, for a variety of reasons, anyone

believes in the incarnation

diction

to the claim that the

only apparent and not genuine.

what

is

with "John believes that

the upshot of

X

not in fact P."

is

the claim that philosophy

all this for

The

not competent to pass on the reasonableness of Christianity? conclusion

I

wish to draw

is

that the Christian would be unwise always

to take the response to philosophical criticism

respect to certain objections,

it

mistaken.

When

it

the

is

at

should

it

if it is

first

response appropriate and I

think the answer

then the

is

part of the critic or

on the

thinking. However,

when

when

making

is

part of those

the objection false

appropriate response would be to

understanding of Christianity

whether the

critic

regard just

is

should the

something but

is

like

offended

response seems appropriate. In this case the offense,

first

from the Christian point of view, can be traced to

the critic

course

critic

when

When the critic basically has got Christianity right,

it,

"Of With

say,

true."

seems better to argue that the

second be followed? In general, this:

Climacus proposes. With

seems appropriate to

Christianity appears absurd to you; to other objections,

is

is

is

sin, either

who have shaped

is

the

on the critic's

based on misunderstanding,

claims about Christianity, then the set

him

or her straight.

present, then

really offended in

it

If

a

genuine

can become

clear

Climacus' sense. In other words,

not every philosophical attack on Christianity constitutes offense, and

The Echo of Offense

89

/

not every philosophical defense represents a devious selling out of Christianity to I

make

it

acceptable to sinful

human

beings.

believe that this qualification of Climacus' view

on the

between philosophy and Christianity makes sense of some

relation

historical

would otherwise be inexplicable, namely, that there have

facts that

been many philosophers who have defended the reasonableness of revealed Christian faith without thereby altering and distorting that faith.

On

Climacus' view,

would seem that philosophers who have

it

considered Christian faith should either be opponents or else people

who have to

by altering

tried to justify Christianity

it

to

make

it

acceptable

However, there are of course philosophers such

unbelievers.

Augustine and Thomas Aquinas

who seem

to

as

have done neither of

these things.

To

claim that philosophical thought

objections to faith

what Climacus

may

some

legitimately defuse

to call into question the monolithic character of

is

"the understanding." Throughout his discussion,

calls

he personifies the understanding and therefore implies that reason speaks with a unified voice. There

such a procedure.

is,

I

would argue, much danger

tends to obscure the

It

fact, a fact

in

that Kierkegaard

himself helps us to recognize in other contexts, that there

is

no such

thing as "reason" or "the understanding." There are simply a lot of

people

who

reason,

and they do not

all

think in the same way.

Many

are offended by Christianity, but not all of them.

Why does Climacus assume that the understanding will be offended by Christianity?

The

question

is

misleading because, as

we have

already

noted, Climacus does not assume that everyone will be offended by Christianity.

Some

will believe,

question must be rephrased. a natural tension

offense I

is

is

not offended. So the

does Climacus assume that there

is

between the understanding and the paradox, so that

one might

is,

and a believer

Why

say, a natural

if

not universal reaction?

believe that he sees offense as a consequence of two things.

that Christianity, particularly the incarnation,

is

One

something that

human

reason cannot understand or comprehend. In saying that Chris-

tianity

is

essentially paradoxical,

claim that but he

is

it is

Climacus

logically contradictory

committed

is

not committed to the

and therefore contrary

to the claim that

it

is

something

to reason,

human

reason

can never master or comprehend, a claim that has been traditionally

90

PASSIONATE REASON

/

expressed by saying that the incarnation factor in explaining the natural tension is

what

tianity

have termed the imperiaUstic character of reason.

I

something reason cannot

is

whatever

is

The claim

real

must be

fully grasp,

combined with Climacus' from what

is

Strictly speaking,

that

it

it

is

set for battle.

is

against reason follows from

is

imperialistic

this

that reason will always be imperialistic?

Climacus does not assume

this,

since

we have seen

not the case for the person gripped by the passion of

assumption

is

is

and naturally

cannot master.

What he does assume is that reason is naturally who have not been transformed by faith, and this

Chris-

If

insists that

above reason when

is

thesis that reason

why should we assume

But

and reason

then the stage

fully graspable,

of Climacus that Christianity

the traditional claim that Christianity

recoils

above reason. The second

is

between reason and the paradox

simply that

understanding of sin

is

it is

making

his reason for

a consequence of sin.

traditionally that

faith.

imperialistic in people

The

Christian

consists fundamentally in

it

an attitude of prideful autonomy over against God. Climacus attitude as expressed epistemologically in the

demand

sees this

that whatever

I

accept as true be certified as correct by the standards of evidence and probability that

I

currently live by.

He

ment of

his

thought experiment

if

of course, fully justified in

is,

making the assumption that humans are

sinful

because

it

is

a require-

the hypothesis "invented"

is

to be

genuinely different from the Socratic position.

One might in

some

think that by arguing, as

I

have above, that reason may

cases legitimately give a defense of Christianity against the

charge that

it

unreasonable,

is

I

have necessarily rejected the view of

a betrayal of Christianity, a

Kierkegaard that apologetics

is

Climacus seems to share. In

fact

apologetics, but

I

still

I

do

view that

reject a blanket indictment of

think that the view

I

am

defending

is

consistent

with the central intentions of Kierkegaard and of Climacus. tinction can be issue

is

A

dis-

made between different kinds of apologetics. The central

the role played by special revelation and authority. Climacus

wants to say that Christianity can only be known to be true by revelation,

and hence philosophical attempts

essarily betray

it

to defend Christianity nec-

by making Christianity appear to

than revelation. Certainly, such as those of people

like

many attempts

rest

on reason rather

to defend religious belief,

Kant, Schleiermacher, and Hegel

fit

this

The Echo of Offense pattern.

However, Climacus does not seem

of a philosophical defense of Christianity

91

/

to consider the possibility

which does not attempt

to

replace revelation with reason, but argues for the reasonableness of

recognizing the limits of reason and the need for revelation.

cannot see

1

how Climacus can

rightly object to that sort of philo-

sophical defense of Christianity, because is

He

doing.

for reason

recognizes

is

it

himself arguing that there

and the revelation of the god,

own

its

limits.

seems to be what he himself

meeting place

a possible

is

where reason

in that case

Climacus would probably respond to

the kind of philosophical defense

I

this that

when

here envisage can only occur

the understanding has been transformed by faith. Perhaps this

but

it

raises

one further

difficulty for

Why

Climacus.

should

who

case that only the thinking of the "unborn" person

deserves to be termed "reason" or "the understanding?" to be the case that people with faith

obvious It is

why

reason or understanding

true that offended people

can think is

It

do

in this case

is

to

make

should not be

made

so.

Given the

and

it

is

not

also.

tried to appropriate the

find Christianity absurd, but that "reason" does so.

just that

they

Climacus thinks the

a present of the

the opponent, and insist that Christianity

so,

lacks faith

not operative in them

have often

is

be the

would appear

as well,

term "reason" or "understanding" and thus to claim, not

best thing to

it

term "reason" to

not "reasonable" and

is

variety of senses of "reason"

the variety of ways something can be said to be unreasonable,

and thus I

do not

think that Christians can afford to be so polite as to allow the offended

person to appropriate the term. Certainly, from Climacus' view,

it is

not the case that the offended person

tially objective,

is

just as

much

a passion as faith.

faith represent forms of passionate thinking,

and

the unbeliever's form of thinking deserves the honorific

however much the unbeliever would

own

point of

reasoning in an essen-

neutral manner, while the person of faith

subjective, since offense

and

is

it

is

is

biased and

Both offense unclear

title

why

of "reason,"

like to appropriate the term.

THE SUPERIORITY OF THE PARADOX TO THE OFFENDED CONSCIOUSNESS In several respects Climacus views the spat between Vv^hat he calls the

understanding and the paradox as one which

is

not between equals.

92

PASSIONATE REASON

/

Rather, the paradox occupies a superior position. This

"unhappy

his characterization of offense as

ogous to the "misunderstood understand this better,

The analogy is

was,

let us

it

that there are formulas for the

happy unions of the

Where

if

is

factors involved.

the understanding and self-love

a certain kind of self-love

then love becomes impossible. Similarly, fended, then faith

To

to self-love. This equation implies

is

be blocked

are in certain conditions.

discussed in chapter 3.

self- love"

be recalled, a proportional equation: faith

will

will

anal-

is

return to the analogy with love.

to the understanding as love

These happy unions

implicit in

is

love," a love that

if

is

present,

the understanding

is

of-

impossible and the marriage between the under-

standing and the paradox cannot be brought about. force of the analogy for the relations

between

faith

To

understand the

and reason,

it

would

be helpful to understand the romantic situation more precisely. Unfortunately,

Climacus says

little

about the kind of unhappy love he has

we must largely fend One comment he does make

in mind, so

the understanding for the paradox,

has

its

basis in

since the it is

clear

of love

is

control

is

misunderstood

power of accident from

this that

for ourselves. is

that offense, the

"is

self-love; the is

he has

analogy stretches no further

capable of nothing in

unhappy love of

only like the unhappy love which

mind

a case

here,..."'"*

I

think

where the unhappiness

due to factors internal to the lovers and over which some possible.

That

is,

he does not want to consider cases

in

which

the lovers are separated by external factors, such as social conditions

over which they have no control, but the case in which something

within the lovers

means that

make

it

impossible for

them

in the analogous case of offense,

external factors also must be ruled out. This

to

come

together. This

what might be termed

means

that a person

has never had the opportunity to hear about Christianity, or it

who

who

rejects

because social and cultural factors similarly not subject to his or her

control produce a distorted understanding of faith,

is

not offended in

Climacus' sense. Offense must be traceable to something within the offended person.

But to return to the case of romantic love, what stood self-love?"

What

What

does

it

mean

underlies Climacus' discussion

that self-love

is

this

"misunder-

for self-love to "shrink

from love?"

is

his

the basis of love, and

is

assumption on the one hand

on the other hand

that love

The Echo of Offense represents a dethroning of self-love that

ment. People

To

what they

find

submerge their

same time

at the

is

own

in love while they are seeking their

fall

are looking for, however, they

own

its fulfill-

happiness.

must be willing to

happiness and run the risk that

The who is

93

/

is

inherent in

who

linking their happiness to that of another.

person

from love" out of

unwilling to run this

risk.

He

self-love

the person

is

"shrinks

or she clings to self-love and fearfully resists caring for the

other, worried that such caring will lead to misery.

way

love in this

it

because

is

misplaced and will make

Climacus

me

asserts that this

I

form of

I

is

The

own

its

in control.

rooted in misunderstand-

ing. It fails to see that in clinging to self-love

attaining

shrink from

no longer be

will

self-love

I

commitment may be

think such a

vulnerable.

If

blocks self-love from

it

goals.

application of the analogy to the case of faith and the under-

standing

interesting

is

and sheds much

light

on the

superior position

of the paradox. Belief in the paradox represents the dethroning of the

understanding, which here must

mean something

Yet Climacus has told us in chapter 3 that "in the understanding does indeed will

have

like

"human thinking

can be carried on independently of the god's revelation."

insofar as this

its

own

its

paradoxical passion

downfall. "^^

a dethroning that represents a fulfillment.

Once more we

The paradox

is

supposed

to satisfy the deepest longings of the understanding.

The

superiority of the paradox to offense lies in the failure of offense

to grasp this. Offense clings to the security of imperialistic reason that

must retain control,

own

to find

that

just as selfish self-love clings to

happiness, blind to the need for

it

its is

own

true

seeking to

need of the

self.

commitment

the quest for

its

to the other in order

Offense misunderstands the need of reason

fulfill, just

self for happiness.

as selfish self-love

misunderstands the

The paradox understands this situation The inequality lies in the

while the offended understanding does not. fact that the

paradox understands the reaction of the understanding,

both in faith and offense, but the offended understanding misunderstands

up

its

own

relation to the paradox. Believing that

as a judge in order to

standing

fails

to see that

defend it is

Rather, the understanding of the paradox.

is

its

own

integrity, the

it

must

set itself

offended under-

not an independent, disinterested party. a passionate responder to the initiatives

94

PASSIONATE REASON

/

The significance of the echo charge made by the paradox lies here. The dependence and lack of originality of the understanding make it plain that the charges

learned from revelation.

shows that

it

hurls against the paradox are things

it

The

fact that

has misunderstood

its

it

regards these as objections

position. All the while,

implies, the understanding suffers in the

more ordinary

ness and resentment reveal an underlying sense of

its

paradox, just as the bitterness of the selfish person love lover

may reveal an underlying who is being rejected.

These claims seem noted

earlier,

What we

far

have, in

fact,

is

is

lies

in the

As

situation.

the viewpoint of the believer.

faith.

a bit thin here,

what he or she

is

rejecting.

though similar accounts are fleshed Nevertheless, what

out in other Kierkegaardian writings. irritate

like

Climacus seems to be saying

that the antireligious person in reality wants

probably sufficient to

bitter-

more often employed by people

Freud and Nietzsche against Christian

is

its

own need for the who shrinks from

sense that true happiness

made from

Climacus

the kind of depth psychology being applied

to the religious skeptic that

The psychology

sense;

from an objective view of the

they seem to be

has

it

the unbeliever.

What

then

is

said

is

the purpose

is

of saying these things?

The main one

is

I

think to underline the passional character of

reason. Climacus wants us to look through the understanding's selfportrait as a neutral, objective truth-seeker

of imperialistic reason.

Such

and see the actual character

a reason will necessarily

come

into conflict

with Christian faith. Pointing this out to someone in the grip of imperialistic reason will probably

do

little for

that person but anger

him. However, perhaps the anger will reveal to that person that he not so disinterested and objective after situation will at least alter the faith

to

all.

remove the temptation

make

it

And

for the believer to try to

acceptable to the offended person.

believer, in other words, should acquire a certain boldness

dence

is

understanding the

The

and confi-

in the face of certain objections. In fact, the believer should

regard these objections as a confirmation of the truth of her faith.

At

the conclusion of the appendix the interlocutor once more appears and accuses Climacus of plagiarism for citing without credit the words of

Hamann,

Lactantius, Shakespeare, and Luther.'^ Climacus cheerfully

acknowledges the plagiarism but claims that one can see from these

The Echo of Offense

/

95

authors that a clear understanding of the nature of offense can be found in the

nonoffended person. Offense

is

understood by faith but not vice

versa.

Analyzing the character of offense reminds the believer of the dangers of substituting reason for revelation. In Climacus' words,

it

reminds the believer of the "difference" between reason and the para-

dox/^ or the difference between a philosophical worldview and ethic that depends

on unaided human thinking, and

depends on God's revelation of himself. the reason the reminder still

is

needed

is

It

that in the happy passion of faith,

not named by Climacus, "the difference

with the understanding."

The formula

"The understanding surrendered

given:

which

Christianity,

interesting to note that

is

in fact

is

itself

on good terms

happy passion

for this

is

now

and the paradox granted

Itself."'^ It is

in this

important to see that the understanding

happy relationship. The understanding

is is

aside by revelation, but in faith learns to surrender

see a

theme emerging that

I

will

develop more

not totally passive not rudely shoved itself.

fully in

Here we can the next two

chapters. Despite the reputation of Philosophical Fragments as a

book

that presents and defends a fideism that exalts irrational faith, Climacus in his

own way

is

suggesting that a faith rooted in a revelation that

reason cannot fully understand

may indeed be

rational.

CHAPTER

7 REASON AND THE PARADOX

In chapter 4 Climacus resumes his 2

had

left off

"poem" and

takes up where chapter

by imagining the god has "made his appearance as a

teacher" by taking the concrete form of a humble

human

poor,

insignificant person.'

Climacus pauses

whether a god who devotes himself to such a

or anxieties about the daily grind of earning a living

of family

bilities

affirmatively.^ really

give a

can be thought to be

life,

The

servant form

is

The

usually translate the

Danish

with no worries

and the responsi-

human, and answers

disguise, for the

god has

task of the chapter

more concrete account of how the god can

and how the learner can become the god's

Hongs

fully

no mere

taken on the state of the learner.

worry about

briefly to

lofty task,

being, a

common,

servant, not in the literal sense, but in the sense of being a

is

to

carry out his task,

disciple, or follower, as the

Discipel.^

The formula

for

how

this

occurs has already been given at the conclusion of the appendix to

chapter

3,

and Climacus

reiterates the formula

with a slight change in

wording: "The understanding and the paradox happily encounter each

when

other in the moment,

paradox gives that

is

itself.""*

the alternative to offense

receives the

name

"faith,"

not matter much. Faith for

the understanding steps aside and the

This encounter occurs

is

is

that "happy passion"

present, a passion that finally here

though Climacus

now

when

tells us

that the

name does

explicitly identified as "the condition"

understanding the truth, the condition that Climacus has, in order

to distinguish his hypothesis from the Socratic position,

assumed that

human beings lack and must receive from the god. To unpack this formula we must now tackle head-on an was raised and skirted

issue that

in the discussion of offense in the last chapter,

Reason and

namely the nature of the paradox and exactly does it

mean

mean

it

to say that the

the

These questions are

97

/

What What does

relation to reason.

its

paradox

is

a paradox?

to say that in faith the understanding

"yield itself?"

Paradox

must "step aside" or

crucial ones, not only for understand-

ing the perspective of Johannes Climacus in Philosophical Fragments,

but for Kierkegaard's whole authorship. For Kierkegaard grated (or praised) as an opponent of reason, a fideist irrationalism,

on the strength of Climacus' remarks

course argue that the

pseudonym

is

often deni-

who

here.

gloried in

We

could of

protects Kierkegaard from any such

charge, since one cannot simply assume that Kierkegaard and Climacus

think alike here. Such an argument would have merit; at the very least the critic must produce some reason to think that Climacus does represent Kierkegaard to to do, however,

is

make such

to see

criticism stick.

What

I

should like

whether the charge of irrationalism can

justly

be directed to Climacus himself. Without assuming anything about the relationship of Climacus to Kierkegaard,

1

hope thereby to show that

this central section of Kierkegaard's literature

a glorification of irrationalism.

what might be termed a

It is

justly

be read as

Climacus presents us with

true that

critique of reason,

cannot

one that

is

in the spirit of

the critiques offered by Nietzsche and Marx, but that critique that

is

ultimately in the service of reason.

It is

is

one

not an attempt at reason's

destruction.

IS THE PARADOX A FORMAL CONTRADICTION?

Why

is it

that faith in the paradox requires reason to "set itself aside?"

Climacus says that the

difficulty for reason lies in the fact that the

paradox involves a "contradiction," the contradiction that the same individual

is

both the god and a

human

to be able to give the condition,

put the learner in possession of is

in turn the object of faith

exactly does Climacus

it,

and

being: "In order for the teacher

he must be the god, and

in order to

he must be man. This contradiction is

the paradox, the moment."^

mean when he

calls

What

the incarnation of the god

a contradiction? Does Climacus think that the believer in the paradox

'

98

is

PASSIONATE REASON

/

someone who abandons the

by embracing a

Two

logical

universal vahdity of logical principles

contradiction?

contrasting traditions of interpretation have emerged over the

Many

years as responses to these questions.

beginning with

writers,

David Swenson and continuing with such commentators

MacKinnon, Comelio Fabro, and N. H. macus^ is

is

not really an

irrationalist,

because the paradox he discusses

not a formal, logical contradiction. For them Climacus

that Christianity

is

critics

such as Brand Blanshard,'^ have interpreted

asks for faith in the paradox,

he

is

impossible. Herbert Garelick

typical of

is

ultimate challenge to the intellect, for

diction,

to the laws of

known

is

many: "This Paradox

all

this reading, faith

is

is

the

is

attempts to understand

and excluded middle. Yet the Paradox

on

even

to be false,

judgment and discourse:

Rationally, the statement 'God-man' Clearly,

when Climacus

asking one to abandon the laws of

and to embrace something which

must conform

asserting

friends of Kierkegaard such as Alastair

the paradox as a logical contradiction. For these writers,

logic

is

above reason, not against reason.

Other writers, both purported

Hannay^ and rabid

as Alastair

S0e,^ have claimed that Cli-

it

identity, contra-

violates these laws....

a nonsensical statement.

more properly described

as

being against

reason than above reason. I

shall try to give a

others

who

convincing demonstration that Garelick and

share his reading of Climacus are wrong.

Climacus does not mean a formal,

of the paradox of the incarnation. However, that task.

a

I

is

must then explain what Climacus does mean

manner which does

shall

I

logical contradiction

I

must account

that

speaks

only half of

my

by "paradox" in

justice to his claims that there

between reason and the paradox.

show

when he

is

a tension

for the tension

between

reason and the paradox while at the same time showing that this tension

is

not a necessary opposition. In carrying out

keep chapter 4 of Fragments to look at other parts of the Unscientific Postscript,

Occasionally

1

as

my main

book and

focus, but

this task,

it

will

I

shall

be helpful

to look several times at Concluding

also by Climacus,

to clarify his

terminology.

shall take note of other works of Kierkegaard that critics

have perceived

as relevant to the issues.

A case that Climacus does mean a formal,

logical contradiction

of course be made. Sometimes the case hinges

can

on the commentator's

Reason and

own who

belief that the incarnation

the

Paradox

/

a logical contradiction.

is

99

Someone

believes this might naturally assume that Kierkegaard must

have

discerned this as well. Louis Pojman, for example, says that the paradox is

"the uniquely absurd proposition that has the most objective evidence

against it

it."^'

The

objective evidence against the paradox

is

simply that

The argument that this is so God and human persons, however.

or entails a logical contradiction.

is

relies

on Pojman's own view of

Pojman, not Kierkegaard, says that since

human

unchanging, and

"God and man

infinite, eternal,

is

are mutually exclusive genuses."'^

Climacus does describe

God

as

is

provided by the fact that

unchanging and

One may

beings as finite and temporal.

eternal,

and human

well conclude from this that

appear to be mutually exclusive genuses. However, what

appears to be the case

not always the case, and there are reasons to

is

be cautious about drawing the conclusion Pojman draws here. that

two of the

qualities

Pojman

alludes to here, etemality

porality, in the Postscript are described

of

human

life

and

beings are finite, nonetemal, and changing,

Support for Pojman's argument here

God and man

God

One

is

and tem-

by Climacus as the constituents

generally, not just the incarnation.^^ So,

Climacus does

not necessarily equate temporality with being nonetemal, as Pojman illicitly

The

assumes.

a paradoxicalness it is

paradoxicalness of the incarnation thus mirrors

which

is

generically present in

human existence, and human existence

implausible to claim that Climacus understands

itself as

a logical contradiction,

even though he does describe existence

as a "contradiction."'"^

Certainly, Climacus claims in

contradiction; the incarnation

The

is

many

passages that the paradox

even described

is

logical or formalist reading of "contradiction"

is

supported by the

frequent claims that the contradiction consists in the fact that what eternal has

become

historical.

where Climacus

in the Postscript,

in the fact that the eternal its

own

nature."'^

where Climacus dition is,

is

The

a

as a self-contradiction.'^

strongest statement to this effect

is is

says that the contradiction consists

can only become historical by "going against

A statement almost this strong

asserts that the contradiction

regarded as something that

is

is

is

found in Fragments,

that an eternal con-

acquired in time.'^

moreover, often designated in the Postscript

not, interestingly enough, in Fragments .^^

The paradox

as the "absurd,"

though /

100

PASSIONATE REASON

/

WHY THE PARADOX

IS NOT A FORMAL CONTRADICTION

Despite this support for the "against reason" view,

whelmingly strong case can be made not is

mean

"logical contradiction"

The evidence

a paradox.

for the

when he

for this

think an over-

I

claim that Climacus does

claims that the incarnation

of two kinds: textual evidence

is

and more general arguments derived from an overall understanding of the project of Climacus.

Textual Evidence

The

point which must be taken into account

first

is

that the terms

"contradiction" and "self-contradiction" {Modsigelse and Selvmodsigelse) are not generally used by

Climacus to

term a logical contradiction. sense,

He

and when he does, he appears

to hold firmly to the principle

that a contradiction cannot be affirmed. later.)

what we would today

refer to

does sometimes use the terms in this

(I

more about

will say

this

Frequently, however, he uses the term contradiction to refer to

something that

is

evidently not a logical contradiction. For example,

in the "Interlude"

Climacus says that "coming into existence"

"contradiction."''^ Thus, the

mere

fact that

the paradox as a contradiction does very the paradox

is

Climacus often

little

the Hegelians,

who

he

is

a

to support the idea that

a logical contradiction. Climacus' usage

to a contemporary reader, but

is

refers to

here, as at so

many

may seem

sloppy

points, following

notoriously used the term "contradiction" in a very

broad manner.^° Climacus (and other Kierkegaardian pseudonyms) regularly uses the

term "contradiction" to

refer to

what might today be

designated as an "incongruity," with formal, logical contradictions seen as a species of the incongruous.

This can be clearly seen in the discussion of humor and the comical in

Climacus'

diction,"^



Postscript.

and

in a

The comical

is

defined as a "painless contra-

lengthy footnote which

follows,

Climacus gives

numerous examples of contradictions, none of which logical contradictions.

a caricature,

which

is

We

already noted in chapter

1

are formal or

the example of

said to be comical because of the "contradiction

Reason and

between likeness and unlikeness"

man who

falls

is

between

up

at a

it

is

not him.

quarter yards

tall

is

A

is

window. Here the

whom

you are conversing

man and

fairy-tale character described as

said to be

is

yet are aware

seven and one

said to be comical because the exactness implied

by the use of the fraction

which

101

/

upward gaze and downward ascent. See-

his

shadow of a man with

comical because in the shadow you both see the that

Paradox

contains, as well as the case of the

into a cellar while looking

"contradiction" ing the

it

the

contradictory to the distance from reality

is

associated with the fairy tale. All of these contradictions are

not fonnal, logical contradictions.

clearly cases of incongruity,

Furthermore, on some of the occasions of formal, logical contradictions,

it

is

when Climacus

does speak

in the context of a defense of

the Aristotelian position that the law of noncontradiction must be upheld. In the Postscript Climacus' polemic against Hegel are genuine either-or's; not every opposition

can be

is

that there

intellectually medi-

ated so that one can reach the position of both-and. This polemic

depends on a resolute defense of the principle of noncontradiction and the consequent existence of "absolute distinctions." In Philosophical

Fragments Climacus says that absolute and lectician,"^-

on

it

is

"an unshakable insistence on the

absolute distinctions that makes a person a good dia-

though

this has

been forgotten in our age because of our

failure to take the principle of

noncontradiction seriously. Aristotle's

argument that one must assume the principle of noncontradiction even to

deny

it is

put forward.^- In a blast at the theology of his day, which

by denying the principle was able to have

many

its

cake and eat

it

too

on

crucial issues, Climacus, in alluding to King Lear, crisply affirms

that saying yes and

no

at the

same time

Not only does Climacus defend explicitly distinguishes

is

not good

theology.^"^

the law of noncontradiction.

between a formal,

logical self-contradiction

He and

the kind of contradiction which constitutes the paradox. In the course

how people The contemporary generation of believers

of his discussion of the incarnation, Climacus analyzes

become

believers or disciples.

will obviously receive the

condition of faith directly from the God.

But what about subsequent generations?

Is it

possible that they receive

the condition of faith from their immediate historical predecessors,

have passed on to them the possible,

and the ground of

historical report? his denial

is

Climacus denies

that this proposal

who

this is

is

self-

102

PASSIONATE REASON

/

contradictory and "meaningless," in a different sense than the paradox itself is said to

he contradictory}^ If the later disciple receives the condition

of faith from the earlier generation, this would in effect

make the

earlier

generation the god, which contradicts the supposition that the earlier generation had received the condition from the god, and was therefore not itself god.

That meaninglessness

[that the later generation receives the con-

dition of faith from the earlier generation!, however, in a different sense

than when we

is

unthinkable

state that that fact [the incar-

nationl and the single individual's relation to the god are unthinkable.

Our hypothetical assumption

individual's relation to the

become preoccupied with

thus thought can

self-contradiction;

which

reasonableness

god

for the

it

with the strangest

as

That meaningless consequence, however, contains

possible thing.

sonable,

of that fact and the single

god contains no self-contradiction, and

it is

not

satisfied

a

with positing something unrea-

our hypothetical assumption, but within this un-

is

produces a self-contradiction: that the god

it

contemporary, but the contemporary in turn

is

is

the

the god

for a third.

I

believe that the

same distinction between

the kind of contradiction which

is

a formal contradiction

found in the paradox

an often-quoted but somewhat obscure passage

is

and

implicit in

in Postscript,^''

where

Climacus attempts to distinguish between nonsense and the incomprehensible.

One can

believe the incomprehensible but reason protects

one against believing nonsense, between the incarnation can be found in

at

says Climacus.

as a "contradiction"

least

and

A

similar distinction

a formal contradiction

one Kierkegaard ian passage from Anti-

Climacus.^^

Arguments from Climacus' General Strategy Seeing that the paradox is

spective shows

how

not for Climacus a formal contradiction

inappropriate

such a contradiction. the incarnation it

is

not merely a matter of proof-texting. Reflection on his overall per-

is

is its

One

it

is

to think of the incarnation as

of the key points in Climacus' treatment of

uniqueness.

The

the absolute paradox and as such

incarnation is

is

not

just a

paradox;

absolutely unique. Explaining

Reason and

what Climacus means by

this

the

Paradox

no easy matter, and he

is

gives

the way of argument for this uniqueness. Nevertheless, that such uniqueness

103

/

it

little

in

obvious

is

not served by treating the paradoxicalness of

is

the incarnation as a formal contradiction. Such contradictions are not

only not unique; they can be generated at

and

sees this

raises

it

will.

Even Louis Pojman

as a criticism of Kierkegaard,^'^

with Climacus by Pojman, but

serves rather to

it

assumption that Kierkegaard must

mean by

who

is

identified

undermine Pojman's

contradiction what Pojman

thinks he means.

Even more fundamentally,

if

the paradox

is

a formal contradiction

and can be known to be such, the assumption that undergirds the B is that human beings lack who assume that the incar-

hypothesis of Philosophical Fragments, which the Truth, would be undermined. Those

nation

is

a logical contradiction believe that

standing of what

God

being.

it

means

to be

infinite, eternal,

is

"God" and "human being"

assumes that we have a

human

a clear under-

Thus we can know

temporal, limited in their knowledge. predicates

we have

God and what it means to be a human all-knowing; human beings are finite, that the

are logically exclusive. All this

reliable, natural

knowledge of both

God and

beings.

However,

as

we have

B hypothesis constitutes a The whole of Philosophical Fragthought-experiment on the following lines.

seen, Climacus'

radical challenge to this assumption.

ments

is

a

development of a

Socrates had proposed that the Truth, the eternal truth, which for

Kierkegaard means the knowledge of God, was present within beings already. Climacus

tries to

of denying this Socratic assumption.

assumption that

human

human

think through the logical implications

He wants

to explore the contrary

beings lack the truth about

God and

therefore

must receive that truth from a revelation which comes directly from

God. Thus chapter

3,

which develops the notion of the incarnation

a paradox, consistently looks at

autonomous, unaided

The

irony here

is

human

God

as the

unknown,

that

as

which

reason cannot know.

know that the incarnation is a we would have to have the kind of knowlpoint of the incarnation to deny we possess.

clear. In order to

formal, logical contradiction

edge of God which

One cannot know

it is

the

that a round square

is

a contradictory

concept with-

out a clear concept of roundness and squareness. Similarly, one cannot

104

know

PASSIONATE REASON

/

that the concept of the

God-man

is

contradictory without a clear

concept of both the divine and the human.

WHAT We

IS

THE PARADOX?

can now understand what Climacus does mean by calling the

incarnation a paradox and also lay a basis for seeing that there

dox is

a tension

is

something that we cannot understand or comprehend.

is

A paradox

the result of an encounter with a reality which

is

our concepts are inadequate to deal with, a reality that ceptual knot.

When we try to understand

it

we may find

ity

we have encountered

is

itself self-contradictory. It

ourselves saying that the real-

means that there

a problem with our conceptual equipment. If

one

is

convinced that our conceptual equipment

is

exactly this reason, those

adequate will naturally

stand

God

who resist

then

in order,

the natural response to a paradoxical reality will be to dismiss

is

con-

ties us in a

mean

self-contradictory things, but of course this does not

is

thinks

A para-

something that may appear to us to be a contradiction. In general the

discovery of a paradox

is

why he

between the paradox and human reason.

it.

think our natural understanding of the suggestion that

For

God

we can only under-

through a revelation from God. For such people, the paradox

truly "against reason."

To

understand

briefly in

chapter

this reaction consider again the parallel case, used 6,

of a mind-body dualist

who

believes that our

concept of consciousness logically entails that thinking must inhere in a nonphysical substance

which

is

the subject of consciousness. Suppose

who believes that the subject of To the dualist, the notion of a thinking logical contradiction. The materialist might respond as follows:

this dualist

encounters a materialist

thinking

simply the brain.

brain

is

a

To you

is

the idea of a thinking brain

contradiction.

is

The problem, however,

paradoxical;

does not

lie

it

appears to be a

in the reality of a

thinking brain, but in your constricted concept of the mental.^' In exactly the same manner, the believer in the incarnation

respond to the unbeliever: the idea of

may even appear

God becoming

a

man

is

to be a logical contradiction.

may para-

The

doxical to you;

it

problem

your constricted conception of God, and more specif-

lies in

Reason and

Paradox

the

105

/

ically, in your assumption that you understand who God is and what God can and cannot do. Of course there must be some carry-over between our prior understanding of God and the new understanding which results from our encounter with the God in time, just as there must be some carry-over

from our

concept of the mental to a materialistic

earlier, dualistic

concept of the mental. Otherwise, the term "God" in the expression

"God-man" would be

utterly meaningless, as

would "mind"

analogous "material mind." But this requirement rather drastic conceptual transformations. that

it is

impossible for an

no concept could an

atom

originally

No one

to be split

in the

compatible with

is

today wishes to argue

on conceptual grounds,

yet

haVe been more paradoxical than that of

indivisible, smallest unit of

matter being divided.

THE TENSION BETWEEN REASON AND THE PARADOX We

are

now

in a position to see

why Climacus

in the incarnation as against reason, rather

reason. Faith

is

frequently talks of faith

than simply being above

said to be against reason because all of us are in a

position in this matter analogous to the dualist

who

is

offended by the

notion of a thinking brain. All of us have a strong tendency to think that our ideas about

God, or whatever

to us, are adequate, or that

"condition," the ability to

The B

if

is

ultimate and finally important

they are not, at least that

make

we

own

hypothesis must label this confidence in our

capacities in this area as sin, since the essence of sin assertion of our

Since the

B

own independence and autonomy and therefore are

all

sinners,

it

is

rational

a prideful

over against God.

hypothesis begins with the assumption that

lack the Truth,

possess the

progress toward such truth.

human

beings

naturally thinks that

human thinking, dominated as it is own autonomy, and Christian faith, which implies

there will be tension between our

by an assertion of our

that our intellectual capacities in this area are essentially impaired.

Human

beings are sinful, and their sinfulness not only blocks

from a proper understanding of God; tension between

human

it

is

them

the ground of the natural

reason and the paradox.

The

difference, the

106

PASSIONATE REASON

/

God and man which makes the is plainly said to derive from human

absolute qualitative difference between idea of the

God-man offensive

to us

not the metaphysical qualities cited by Pojman

sinfulness,'-

of the paradox. Hence, there

and the paradox, but

it is

is

a natural tension

which does not

a tension

knowledge of the nature of God.

It

rests rather

as the heart

between human reason

on any

rest

rational

on what one might

call

the natural self-confidence of reason.

Note be

carefully that

I

am

which God makes evident of

human

reason.

transformed by

for

may

surpass the capacities

an unfallen reason,

unfathomability

itself

and understands

its

own

ference" that creates the tension

between the

difference

between the God who

the learner and the

own

desires,

human

inability to understand.

not

is

who demands

and who, desperately seeking

cannot understand the one who cares only

We

and

this

infinite "dif-

the

it is

sacrifices all for

the fulfillment of his

and dominate,

to control

for the other.

can see now what Climacus means by calling the paradox of

One

the incarnation the absolute paradox.

contradiction" view of the paradox

is

difficulty

that

it

with the "logical

cannot explain what

is

Though

it

"absolute" or unique about the paradox of the incarnation. is

reason

The

this natural difference;

unselfishly gives

being

just as for

not a problem. In

is

situation reason recognizes the natural "difference"

and

and the love

beings. God's nature

in the incarnation

However,

faith, this

God would

not saying that apart from sin

human

comprehensible to

fully

not easy to make sense of what Climacus

the uniqueness of the incarnation

is

offend us because of our sinfulness.

The

human beings one would expect any human

says here,

closely related to

idea

is

believe that

I

its

capacity to

that the incarnation

is

not an idea

naturally shocking to

because of

that

being to invent.

Some paradoxes

are relative in the sense that they are paradoxical to

some people but

not to others. This paradox

grounded on some that

is

is

it is

absolute in the sense that

relative intellectual deficit, but

universally present in

in question

is

sin, so

human

beings.

on

it

is

not

a characteristic

The conceptual inadequacy

not one that could be remedied by a

little

education or

hard thinking, as might be the case for other paradoxes, such the

paradox of the "material mind."

One of

why

could wish that Climacus had said more about the question

it is

that sinfulness

makes the incarnation incomprehensible

to

Reason and

us.

He

the

Paradox

107

/

does suggest in at least one passage that the paradox should be

understood in terms of probability, as "the most improbable of things."" This passage supports the idea that the paradox or logical contradiction, since such a contradiction

probable, but impossible.

Why

is

is

all

not a formal

not merely im-

does the incarnation appear so improb-

able to us? Climacus does not really say, but a plausible answer

is

provided by another Kierkegaardian pseudonym, Anti-Climacus, in his

The answer

discussion of offense.^"*

roughly

is

As

represents the epitome of pure, selfless love.

sinful beings

incapable of such love and have never experienced of what

is

it.

be too good to be

It

we

are

Hence our sense

probable, conditioned by our past experience,

against the likelihood of such a love being actual.

between

the incarnation

this:

is

decidedly

simply appears to

This answer explains the "infinite difference"

true.

God and human

beings as a function of

human

sinfulness, as

Climacus does, and makes the improbability of the incarnation to be a function of that

same

sinfulness.

CAN REASON HAVE If

I

am

right in

my

contentions, then the

when

(and frequently Kierkegaard, tionalist rests

on

and

a misreading

to the degree that the charge

is

LIMITS? common

view of Climacus

the two are identified) as an

is

not adequately supported,

grounded

in the

view that Climacus

urges religious believers to violate the laws of logic. still

whether certainly

it

Is

so,

made by Climacus,

what

on my

I

is

or at least

course

it

may for

reading, depends heavily

on

irrational to urge that reason

is

hypothesis he ent.

is

Of

an appropriate one

be the case that the label "irrationalist"

Climacus. Whether that

irra-

at least

it

is

is

limited, for that claim

is

part

is

and parcel of the

constructing and which he evidently regards as coher-

have termed the natural self-confidence of reason healthy

self-esteem or arrogant imperialism?

An

assertion that reason

is

limited

is

surely not

enough

in itself to

convict a thinker of irrationalism. Otherwise, Kant and the Wittgenstein of the Tractatus,

must surely drawn.

lie

in

among

what the

others,

would stand

limits are said to

The answer how they are

guilty.

be and

108

PASSIONATE REASON

/

Climacus' writings are often pictured as Kierkegaard's attempt to save religious belief by locating

The

limits" to reason."

in

it

an enclave which

assertion that

made

what

is

impervious to reason

is

foreign to Climacus, as well as Kierkegaard, though

many who

itself

is

marked

is

"off

behind the boundary

lies

dogmatically. This kind of attitude it

is

present in

Climacus actually stigmatizes

are allegedly influenced by S.K.

the attempt of well-meaning religious people to demarcate a creed, sacred book, or person as an ultimate, unchallengeable authority as

and narrowness of

"superstition

human need reflection,

something

for

he regards

this

spirit. "^^

Though he

"really firm" that

need

weakness and says

as a

recognizes the

impervious to rational

is

it is

incompatible

with the kind of subjective concern which he regards as the foundation of the authentic religious

life.

Although Climacus argues that the incarnation cannot be rationally understood, he regards

which

is

subject to rational scrutiny.

is

One cannot

something which

claim as

this

itself

one

rationally understand

the paradox, but one can hope rationally to understand

why

the paradox

cannot be understood." In other words, the claim that reason has

limits

Of course reason could be limited in a variety of ways. We have already made a distinction must

itself

be a claim that reason can adjudicate.

between a possible

inability to

grounded

and an

in finitude

relevant, since

is

must be able It

is

come

to

crucial to

tension between

To

maintain

its

it

is

it is

remember

human is

that Climacus does not think that the

reason and the paradox

is

a necessary tension.

must always retain the

possibility

only a possibility, not a necessity. For the believer,

one

temptation which has been surmounted. Faith passion in which reason and the paradox are

between reason and the paradox sets itself aside."'^ In if

the latter sort of

the kind of limit with which reason

a temptation, but to the degree that

and reason

It is

to terms.

integrity, Christianity

of offense, but this

in sin.

the source of the tension between

is

it

reason and the paradox, and so

is

understand that can be traced

and assumptions rooted

to the attitudes limit that

understand the incarnation that

inability to

is

is

is

a believer,

is

no

is

a

described as a happy

on good

terms.

possible in the case

other words, there

it

conflict

The

accord

where "reason between

faith

reason can accept the limitations of reason. This claim

of Climacus that reason and faith can have a happy relationship means

Reason and

that Climacus' perspective

d\e

Paradox

109

/

ultimately consistent with Kierkegaard's

is

statement, often quoted by partisans of the above-reason interpretation of the paradox: absurd.

"When

the believer has faith, the absurd

In the last chapter

we saw how Climacus

said to be related to faith as self-love

important enough to be worth reiterating: "Self-love ot love, but at is

its

highest point wills precisely

what love wants

moment

each other in the

There

love.""^'

is

but the tension

it

is

When

not a necessary- one.

they genuinely do

were.

is

the basis

destruction. Tliis

agreement with

in

of passion, and this passion

because they are seeking their

as

own

lies at

is

precisely

often a tension between self-love and genuine love,

the initial ground or basis of the love

when

its

two powers are

too, so these

which reason

This analog\'

to love.

is

happy

explicates this

relationship through an extended proportional analog^', in is

not the

is

"^^

The person

fall

own

a person falls in love,

people

self-love;

is

happiness.

in love, self-love

is

fall

The paradox

in love is

that

transcended, dethroned,

gains happiness in sacrificing happiness for the

sake of the loved one. Thus,

when genuine

love

is

present, love

and

self-love are united.

Similarly, in faith the understanding its

limits.

"To

to," just as a selfish love.""^^ is

is

dethroned;

it

must recognize

much to object may "shrink from

that degree the understanding will have

person in the grip of self-love

Yet Climacus suggests that the dethroning of the understanding

at the

same time what the understanding

itself desires;

of fulfillment of the understanding, just as love

The

clear implication of this

of reason can

itself

is

it

is

a kind

fulfills self-love.

that the recognition of the limits

be rational, at least under certain conditions, those

conditions being the presence of the passion of faith, whose formula repeated several times: the understanding yields grants

itself."^-

What

is

important here

is

itself,

is

the paradox

that the understanding yields

Itself.

HOW What

is

this

condition?

the acquisition of faith

IS

FAITH ACQUIRED?

How is

in

does one acquire

some

it?

We

have seen that

respects like the conceptual trans-

110

PASSIONATE REASON

/

formation one might undergo in becoming a materialist with respect

mind-body problem, so

to the

mind-body

a convinced

and that

it

might be helpful to ask how a similar

made with

transformation might be

dualist be

his conceptual difficulties

equipment and

his conceptual

How

respect to that issue.

convinced that materialism with

it

are rooted in a

beliefs, rather

might is

true,

problem with

than being rooted in prob-

lems with materialism? Obviously, no easy answer to this question

The

possible.

component

reasons for the change will be complex, but

will

be central in any plausible account. There

antee that anything will work, but central motivation will

cannot be is

falsified

to occur,

it

will

if

such a change

come from an encounter with

by any crucial experiment, but be motivated by

new

no

is

to be

is

adequate to deal with

guar-

made, the Dualism

reality.

a transformation

if

factual discoveries about the

which show that one's previous assumptions simply

brain,

is

think one

I

reality, or at least that these

are not

assumptions are not

pragmatically effective any longer.

Of

course as Climacus

tells

the story there

is

a strong disanalogy

between the mind-body case and the case of Christian is

he

faith.

The

dualist

asked to give up convictions which are very important to him, but

not asked to give up the assumption that he has at

is

ability to revise his

conceptual structure to make

Christian revelation,

on the other hand,

that

must recognize, not only that

it

ability to

own

make

steam.

truth

is

Its

it

says to

human

conceptual equipment with respect

understanding

proceeds on

it

its

autonomy and denies

Nevertheless, despite this disanalogy,

I

its

its

to ultimate religious

not only flawed, but irremediably broken, so long as

on

The

lacks the Truth, but lacks the

progress toward the Truth so long as

rialistically insists

"How

least the

adequate.

it

it

impe-

brokenness.

believe that the question

does one acquire faith and arrive at the condition in which

reason can understand the reasonableness of recognizing

be answered in a way that

is

quite parallel to the

question for the mind-body case can be answered.

Climacus

says.

One

its

limits?"

can

way the corresponding

At

least this

is

what

acquires the passion through an encounter with

reality, a first-person

meeting with the

God

himself.

The God must

grant the condition."*^ Just as one might conceivably learn that brains

think by encountering a brain that thinks, so one might learn that

God became

a

man

by encountering the God-man. The disanalogy

is

Reason arA

that in the brain case

formed by the encounter, but

CUmacus part of the

my

gets transalso trans-

happens via a transformation of

fundamental cares and attitudes are

says that this transformation

believer,'*'*

111

/

my thinking that paradox, my thinking is

this

even though he

(or perhaps repeated acts of will) it

Paradox

fundamentally

it is

formed. In the case of the absolute

myself in which

the

is

will

on the

an act of

clearly thinks that

necessary for

is

altered.

not an act of

will

to occur, because

it

not an act which the agent can simply carry out on his or her

is

own. The

something which the believer can

ability to believe requires

only receive directly from the god. Faith represents a discontinuity with the past and what one has received through one's natural

endowments

and experiences. In a similar way, Climacus denies that faith amounts to knowledge.'*^ I

think he means that the conceptual transformation which

here

person's intellectual

what

is

known

is

life.

when

Normally,

certified

I

come

what

being transformed

is

know something,

to

by standards of evidence and past

the case of faith, however, the transformation since

required

is

too drastic to be assimilated to ordinary transformations in the

is

precisely

is

My

standards of evidence and past beliefs.

is

beliefs.

In

qualitatively different,

my

confidence in those

standards of probability and

evidence are themselves brought into question. Furthermore, as we

have noted, in

this case the intellectual transformation

is

not funda-

mental but derivative from a transformation of the whole person that

can be described

One way to

as

moral or

spiritual.

of illuminating the intellectual change that does occur

is

employ the distinction Alvin Plantinga has made between evidence

and grounds. Plantinga has defended the claim that be properly basic for some not believe in

God on

one of the basic

belief in

God may

This means that these people do

people.'^^

the basis of evidence. Rather this belief

beliefs in their noetic structure. It

is

itself

might seem that

such beliefs would be arbitrary and that there would be no way to

determine whether such a belief this

is

not the case.

evidence,

me,

for

it

may

example,

He

still

says that

have a

is

justified or not. Plantinga thinks

though such a belief

ground.'*^

may be grounded

in

The

belief that

an experience

in

aware of God's providential care. Such an experience by Plantinga to be evidence, for

it

is

is

not based on

God

which

is

cares for I

become

not considered

not a proposition which has any

112

PASSIONATE REASON

/

The

expe-

and perhaps cannot be

trans-

evidential relationship to the propositional belief

rience

is

not an argument for the

belief,

it

grounds.

formed into any kind of philosophical argument, and certainly does not need to be thus transformed. Rather, the experience transforms the experiencer.

It

causes

him

one which

is

to be aware of God's loving

care for him.

In a similar

way Climacus

be basic and not the

may

argues that faith in the incarnation

result of historical evidence.

Evidence

neither

is

necessary nor sufficient to produce the transformation of the individthe experience of meeting

ual."*^ It is

God which

of faith. This passion transforms the learner and set of beliefs. It

possible, of course, that the believer

possible a

may

new

be, perhaps

presented with evidence in the course of this encounter, but

usually

is,

what

essential

is

is

produces the passion

makes

is

the encounter

itself.

Such an encounter may properly

be said to be the ground of faith without constituting evidence for faith.

Climacus supports

He

his claims here with

imagines a person

who

is

some thought experiments.

a contemporary of the god

who

has

"limited his sleep to the shortest possible time" and hired a "hundred secret agents" in order to spy

records of his every

on the god and keep

detailed historical

movement. Another contemporary has

a similar

group of employees to keep track of every word of the god's teaching.

No

greater historical

that such knowledge

knowledge can be imagined, but Climacus claims is

two characters genuine

On

by no means sufficient to make either of these disciples of the

god."**^

was out of the country during most of the god's stay and only to see the

god when the god

is

knowledge

is

"if

the

able

moment was

Hence, no special amount of

decision of eternity.

is

dying. This historical ignorance would

be no barrier to his receiving the condition

him the

who

the other side of the coin, Climacus imagines someone

for

historical

necessary for faith, either.

Here, Climacus must walk a fine for the historical altogether,

he

is

line, for

if

he removes the necessity

back to the Socratic position,

himself clearly recognizes. His way of resolving this problem that though for the disciple the external form of the god

the detail of that form

is

not.^'

The

disciple

is

must have

is

as

he

a claim

important, a historical

point of departure for his or her transformation. Without that

we do

Reason and

Paradox

the

indeed return to the Socratic position that the Truth

So the "news of the day

already.

is

eternal.""

occur

The

moment

still

remains

postpone any discussion of

as the

how much

question of

not addressed here, but

is

is

within us

is

the beginning of eternity. "^^

details of this historical point of departure are,

"so long as the

113

/

The

however, insignificant,

point of departure for the

detail

must remain

in chapter 5,

and we

for this to

shall therefore

this question until later.

HISTORICAL CONTEMPORARIES AND REAL CONTEMPORARIES The account Climacus

gives of faith as the result of a first-person

encounter with the god

is,

think, faithful to the experience of

I

many

Christian believers. His account of the role played by historical evidence in

becoming a

disciple implies that historical contemporaneity,

might seem, to be a decided advantage out to be no advantage at

all.

in

becoming

a disciple, turns

Contemporaries may have more historical

knowledge, but such knowledge does not necessarily lead to later disciple is

no

may have

barrier to faith.

little

What

is

which

faith; a

historical information, but this ignorance

crucial

is

that whatever historical knowl-

edge the person has must become more than historical knowledge;

it

must become the occasion for an encounter with the god that transforms the learner.

Climacus works

this out

by distinguishing between a historical con-

temporary of the god and a "real" or genuine contemporary.

who has received the condition from whether a

historical

He knows

the god and

something

contemporary or not, is

known by

like the splendid

The person

the god via a first-hand encounter,

him.^"^

wedding

is

a genuine contemporary.

The

glory of the god

feast of a great

anyone would count himself or herself fortunate

to

is

not

emperor, which

have been able to

experience. For such a wedding feast a historical contemporary has a real

advantage over those

who must

rely

on

historical accounts."

The

glory of the god, however, cannot be seen directly with one's physical eyes, but only

The

with the eyes of

faith.

interlocutor reappears at this point to object that

sumptuous of the god to claim that

his

it

is

pre-

knowledge determines who

is

114

a

PASSIONATE REASON

/

contemporary of

Climacus patiently explains once more that

his.^^'

the god cannot be seen directly with one's physical eyes, but only

through the faith that the god himself must provide. Thus, being by the god

known

a necessary condition for real contemporaneity. This

is

account of the value of contemporaneity or lack thereof has obvious implications for the case of the disciple of a later generation, implica-

which the interlocutor claims

tions

The

to

have immediately discerned."

interlocutor appears to be a rather dim,

Climacus seems

if

well-read, person,

any

a bit skeptical of this claim. In

and

case, testing

it

allows Climacus to discuss the issue of the later disciple at length in

chapter

5,

Why

and we

will accordingly consider the issue again in

due course.

how someone becomes a believer corresponds to the experience of many Christian believers? It is because most Christians, at least of those who have made

do

I

claim that the account Climacus gives of

a conscious choice,

do trace their conversion to something that

could be described as an encounter with Jesus Christ. Very few would

While

trace their conversion to historical evidence. for Christians to is

usually the

account^^ from

not the ground of

faith,

Anthony Bloom,

typical in form,

While

I

is

not unusual

be interested in historical apologetics, such an interest

outcome of

if

not the

other side of

my

so strong that

it

The

following

a militant atheist to a believer,

details:

was reading the beginning of

reached the third chapter,

it.

a Metropolitan of the Russian Ortho-

dox Church, who was transformed from is

it

I

St.

Mark's Gospel, before

I

suddenly became aware that on the

desk there was a presence.

And

was Christ standing there that

it

the certainty was

has never

left

me.

had been in his presence I could say with certainty that what the Gospel said about the crucifixion of the prophet of Galilee was true, and the centurion was right when he said, 'Truly he is the Son of God." This was the

It

was

real turning point.

Because Christ was alive and

in the light of the Resurrection that

I

I

could read with certainty

the story of the Gospel, knowing that everything was true in

because the impossible event of the resurrection was to certain than any event of history. History

Resurrection

I

knew

for a fact.

Gospel beginning with

its first

I

had

to believe, the

did not discover, as you see, the

message of the Annunciation, and

me as a story which one can believe or disbelieve.

it

did not unfold for

It

began

it

was a direct and personal experience.'*^

as

I

it

me more

an event that

left all

problems of disbelief behind because

Reason and

This account may not seem Climacean in in

115

/

respects, particularly

all

emphasis on the resurrection, which Climacus certainly does not

its

much

talk

Paradox

the

places living

about.

(Though

I

think that the strong emphasis Climacus

on receiving the condition

God

in a first-hand

certainly presupposes the resurrection,

the Christian story

Bloom's story

fill

out the

illustrates

primary notion

is

B is

the details of

hypothesis.) However, in

the points in Climacus

that faith

encounter with a

when

I

its

wish to

essentials

stress.

The

the result of a first-person encounter

with Christ. In Bloom's account, this encounter comes by means of a historical record, rooted in the accounts of contemporaries

and passed

down frqm

merely the

means. This

generation to generation, but that record is

precisely the formula

"The person who comes

of faith:

Climacus gives

later believes hy

sion) the report of the contemporary, by the

for the acquisition

means of (the occa-

power of the condition

he himself receives from the God. "^^^ Bloom would seem contemporary of Christ, while obviously

is

failing to

to be a

genuine

be a historical con-

temporary in the ordinary sense. It is

in the

also clear in this

way Plantinga

account that Bloom's faith

describes, yet

namely the experience. Bloom historical

account

as a result of

he comes to evaluate the

it

is

basic for

him

nevertheless clearly has a ground,

clearly does not decide to believe the

evidence for

its

trustworthiness; rather

historical trustworthiness of the

account on

the basis of his encounter with a living Christ. Notice also the characteristic

Climacean perspective on

faith as a certainty

something which from one perspective appears absurd,

concerning

or, in

Bloom's

words, impossible.

Bloom's account may not seem typical of the experience of believers to some.

It

is

perhaps more dramatic, more "mystical" than most

conversions. However, these differences do not seem significant to me,

and they are not features that Climacus' account requires to be present or absent.

In the Interlude between chapters 4 and 5 Climacus analyzes faith or belief as something that involves the will, nicely with the

well-known description of

"leap." This term

is

an

analysis that corresponds

faith in the Postscript as a

often thought to express a view of faith as a sheer

choice to believe something with no basis for the choice at shall

examine the

role of the will in

coming

to faith

more

all.

We

closely in

'

116

PASSIONATE REASON

/

we can already see that the leap of faith is hardly the dark. The believer knows both what he is leaping

the next chapter, but a blind leap into to

and why he

leaping.

is

To

anticipate

one of the arguments of the

next chapter, faith does not require a kind of immoral manipulation of

my

who

not someone is

not

she

some have

belief structure, as

tries to

make

herself believe

about what

person of faith

true, as a result of

is

is

something she knows

something she has no reason to think

true, or

someone who now has good reason

is

The

charged.^'

is

Rather,

true.

to mistrust her earlier ideas

an encounter with

reality that has

fundamentally altered the dominant passions that form the core of her being and shape her thinking.

Why then

is

will necessary? Actually, in the

of the acquisition of faith in chapter 4, there

other than the negative claim faith

is

account Climacus gives almost no talk of

will,

we have mentioned

already,

namely that

human

willing.

The whole

cannot be identified with an act of

chapter could in fact be read as preparation for a thorough-going doctrine of predestination, so strongly does Climacus emphasize the

primacy of the god's actions and the impotence of impression see,

Climacus allows a

human makes

freedom. it

The

possible for

role to

we

human

will

it

does not

make

shall

God

in time

it

necessary."^

take seriously the notion that the source of the difficulty in is

sin,

then the troubles humans have

believing in the incarnation have very physical conceptual puzzles.

We

little

to

do with

We

have trouble believing because we is

are

pure

have trouble believing because we are proud and do

not wish to recognize that there are grasp. All this

in

esoteric meta-

and we have trouble comprehending an action which

unselfishness.

is

This

we

as

an individual to recognize the bankruptcy of

believing the incarnation

selfish

effort.

because of a desire to protect

transforming encounter with the

imperialistic reason, but If

human

however, qualified in the Interlude. There,

is,

may

realities

which we

are unable to

be mostly implicit in Philosophical Fragments, but

it

quite consistent with the perspective adopted by another Kierke-

gaardian pseudonym, Anti-Climacus. In Training

Climacus gives example

after

in Christianity

example of offense, and

Anti-

in every case the

negative reaction can be traced to moral attitudes on the part of the

offended party. clearly:

"The

In The Sickness unto Death the point

real reason

is

made

people are offended by Christianity

is

just as

that

it

Reason and

is

too high, because

it

wants to make a

its

goal

human

he cannot grasp the

human

not the goal of

is

Paradox

the

117

/

persons, because

being into something so extraordinary that

thought."^"*

CONCLUSION: UNDERMINING NEUTRALITY So

is

the paradox above reason or against reason? In a sense

above reason in that

It is

God

concrete

human

unlikely,

which

finite

human

could become a

human

person.

both.

beings cannot understand

It

is

in turn shaped by our

how

against reason in that our

thinking, permeated by our sense of is

it is

own

what

selfishness

is

and

likely

and experience

of others' selfishness, judges the possibility as the "strangest of things."

However,

the laws of logic.

Or

at least that

is

what the believer

cannot think that what has actually occurred

course the unbeliever does not believe

have seen that the incarnation contradiction.

is

irrational ist?" will

depend on who

view corresponds with Climacus'

main concern tianity;

nor

likely to

So perhaps the answer

is

is it

is

thinks. For

one

and the

impossible,

God-man.

believer believes in the reality of the

Of

all

not against reason in the sense of being against

it is

it

has occurred, and

appear to

him

to the question, "Is

is

own

we

to be a formal

Climacus an

answering the question. Such a conclusions

on the

matter. His

certainly not to argue for the reasonableness of Christo maintain that Christianity

argue the impossibility of neutrality.

When

is

unreasonable.

It is

to

reason encounters the par-

adox, faith and offense are both possible; what

is

not possible

is

indifference.^^ It is

important, however, not to allow offense to disguise

as purely rational, a straightforward logical

to hide

behind logic

is

with the real

and

issues.

flag,

The ground

candidate to wrap

and thereby evade having to deal

of offense

is

not pure

self-assertiveness, a confidence in the unlimited

reason.

reaction

deduction. Allowing offense

like allowing a presidential

himself in patriotism and the

its

logic,

but pride

powers of

human

Here we see once more the importance of the message of the

"Appendix"

to chapter 3 of Philosophical Fragments,

Illusion," in

which

neutral authority

it

is

"An

Acoustic

argued that reason would like to pose as the

which has exposed the absurdity of the paradox. In

^

118

PASSIONATE REASON

/

the tension between reason and the paradox

fact,

a tension

is

which

reason has learned about through revelation. Faith and offense are passions,

and neither passion

from the laws of

— indeed no passion

at all

—can be derived

logic.

Perhaps the best way of answering the question as to whether

Climacus sees

faith as against reason

one means by "reason." answer

faculty, the

If

that faith

is

is

to say that

one thinks of reason is

If

one thinks of reason

the laws of logic, faith

one thinks of reason as

it is

is

depends on what

not against reason in this sense,

because reason in this sense does not exist in

myth.

it

as a timeless, godlike

as simply

human

beings.

It

is

not necessarily against reason either. But

as the

a

thinking in accordance with

concrete thinking of

human

by our basic beliefs and attitudes, then there

is

if

beings, shaped

a tension

between

reason and faith, one which can be eliminated only at the cost of the identification of Christianity with

what Kierkegaard

will

later call

Christendom.

Climacus

in this respect resembles a sociologist of

term "reason,"

like

knowledge. The

"knowledge" and "logic," often functions

as

an

instrument of control. Those with social power attempt to legitimate their

ways of seeing and acting in the world by identifying their com-

mitments with abstractions

like

reason and logic. Climacus says that

Christians think that, because of sin, the established attitudes, values,

and

beliefs

which

will necessarily

will

come

dominate the designation of what

into conflict with Christian faith.

of a cultural critique thus stands or

falls

is

"rational"

The

possibility

with the possibility of a

critical

examination of these established patterns of thinking. Fortunately,

Logic or Reason. as

Climacus

philosopher.

no human being

We

are flesh

in the Postscript It is

is

identical with

and blood is

something called

creatures, finite

and temporal,

constantly reminding the speculative

a constant temptation for us, however, to attempt to

evade responsibility for our commitments by attributing them to these ghostly substantives. tradiction

that

is

human

To

interpret Climacus' paradox as a logical con-

to give in to this temptation

thinking

is

and subvert

his

reminder

always carried on by existing individuals.

CHAPTER AND THE WILL

BELIEF

The

"Interlude" between chapters 4 and 5 of Philosophical Fragments

chapter

rivals

the honor of being the most difficult and obscure

3 for

section of the book.

The

difficulty here,

however,

is

of a different type.

In chapter 3 the chief problem lay in determining the overall point of

the chapter and

its

place in the book as a whole.

The

individual

sentences and paragraphs were, with some exceptions, clear enough, but the purpose of the chapter was not. is

just the reverse.

book

is

not too

accessible.

The

The

difficult to

prose

is,

The problem with

the Interlude

place of the Interlude in the structure of the

determine, and

however,

easily the

its

overall point

is

likewise

most philosophically dense

in the book.

The

alleged function of the Interlude

illusion that

some time has

passed, so that

is

to give the reader the

one can move smoothly

from the problem of ho.w the historical contemporary of the god be-

comes

a disciple to the

might become a

problem of how a member of a

disciple.

The

later

generation

actual function seems to be to protect

the view of faith sketched out against certain possible objections, by analyzing the nature of historical knowledge and belief. In this section

Climacus, under the ruse of amusing the reader, "shortening the time to

fill it

up,"' indulges his philosophical, speculative nature

and

treats

a host of profound philosophical issues in a breathtakingly brief compass.

Climacus begins with metaphysics, discussing the nature of bility

possi-

and necessity and the character of that kind of change called

"coming into existence." This nature of the past and what

leads naturally to a discussion of the

may

These metaphysical excursions

properly be described as historical.

are,

however, undertaken with episte-

/

120

PASSIONATE REASON

/

mological ends in mind, as Climacus moves swiftly to a discussion of historical

knowledge, which requires in turn an analysis of belief and

doubt in general, with important claims about the nature of skepticism

and how are

it

can be overcome.

drawn about the nature of

from these discussions

Finally, lessons

faith in the

paradox of the god in time.

Climacus makes an important distinction in the Interlude between

two kinds of faith or

belief.

by both words;

the

it is

(The Danish Tro can be translated

noun form

the ordinary sense, translated by the in any convictions

tence";

it

part

is

Hongs

we have about anything

and parcel of

all

correctly

of the verb "to believe.") Faith in as "belief,"

that has

that David

Hume

an element

is

"come

into exis-

called cognition

of "matters of fact." Faith in the special or eminent sense

is

faith in

who has appeared in history; it is faith in the paradox. Though it is important to understand the distinction between

the god

two kinds of

faith,

it

is

eminent sense presupposes or includes ordinary This must be the case unless that

is

if

these

equally important to see that faith in the

the god has truly

faith as a

come

component.

into existence,

and

assumed, the whole "poem" collapses back into the

Socratic position. Climacus says this very clearly: "It Ithe historical fact

no immediate contemporary,

of the god's appearance in time] has

because it

it is

historical to the first

power

(faith in the ordinary sense);

has no immediate contemporary to the second power, since

based on a contradiction (faith in the eminent sense )."^

I

it

is

say this at

the outset to call attention to the fact that this implies that everything

Climacus says about ordinary well, a point

faith

must be true of eminent

some commentators have

POSSIBILITY

faith as

missed.^

AND NECESSITY: COMING

INTO EXISTENCE Climacus begins by inquiring called

as to the character of that

is

said to be

First, all

other kinds

"coming into existence." This kind of change

different

from other kinds of change in two ways.

of changes presuppose that what

is

kind of change

undergoing the change already

exists,

but obviously, something that comes into existence does not exist prior to that change. Second, in other kinds of change, the object

changed

Belief

and

the

WiR

121

/

undergoes some change in quality. However, in a case of coming into existence,

then

it is

if

the object coming into existence thereby changes

not

its

comes into existence, but some

that object that

nature,

different

one."*

The key

to understanding these differences

from not existing to existing essence (Vaesen). it is

What comes

a something that

a possibility,

is

a

One might

change

Such

a being

is,

Climacus

says,

in Aristotelian fashion, that

a transformation of the possible into the

say that the

in something's

to see the change

into existence must be something, but

and he therefore concludes, is

is

change in being (Vaeren) rather than

a "nonbeing."

is

coming into existence actual.^

as a

change from the possible to the actual

mode

of being, rather than a change in

its

essence.

He

then

raises the

question as to whether the necessary can

and answers the question with an emphatic "no."

into existence,

commentators, such

as

come Some

H. A. Nielsen, have been somewhat embarrassed

by the robustly metaphysical character of the discussion here and in the following sections and have tried to interpret Climacus as giving us bits of linguistic analysis. Nielsen sees

Climacus

as providing us

with

"grammatical reminders" about the use of our concepts, reminders that are unfortunately usually expressed by

Climacus in "fact-like"

ments that have to be "decompressed" in order to discover grammatical existence

is

status.^

So when Climacus

necessary,"

all

he

tells

really saying

is

us that is

state-

their true

"no coming-into-

that the

two concepts

of necessity and coming-into-existence "do not go together in our discourse."^ It is

of course perfectly true that the points Climacus

deeply embedded in our language and thus

grammatical. However,

it

points simply reflect the if

we

talked

regarded

seems to

way we

that way.

When

is

is

making

they would no longer hold

no reason

to think that

Climacus

Climacus gives his points a "fact-like"

expression instead of simply making remarks about "our concepts"

not see

are

rightly be described as

a mistake to think that these

talk, as if

some other way. There

them

me

may

I

do

this as "unfortunately obscuring" his point.® Certainly the fact-

like statements

he makes do not express empirical

that Climacus does not think they do. But that there are

no other kinds of

"facts"

why

facts,

but

it is

clear

should one assume

than empirical ones?

'

122

Nielsen,

It is it

PASSIONATE REASON

/

who

think,

I

tends to obscure the point, by making

appear that Climacus only wants to raake some inoffensive remarks

about the way we necessity

of the

and

Climacus himself

talk.

way things

He

are.

is

clearly trying to talk about

not as features of our language, but

possibility,

focusing

is

on what

necessity, the necessity of things themselves, rather

is

be.

Climacus seems closer

dicto neces-

nature of things

do not dictate how things

reflected in our statements; our statements

must

than de

The

the necessity of propositions or statements.

sity,

as features

logicians call de re

in sensibility to a

Greek or medieval

philosopher here than to contemporary Wittgensteinians. His claims,

while they

may

well be in accord with

what could be

sense metaphysics," are not uncontroversial, but

many

metaphysical convictions held by Briefly,

Climacus claims that what

is

called

"common-

in the face of

fly

philosophers.

necessary cannot undergo the

change of coming into existence because the realm of necessity realm of the unchangeable. This same point different ways: "All

coming into existence

The

the necessary cannot suffer."^

whatever necessarily then

it is

what

it

not necessarily what

at all, because

in the

is

it

is

made

in a

is

the

number of

a suffering (Liden),

and

thinking here seems to be that

cannot change,

it is.

always relates

same manner."^°

is

is

for

if it

can change,

"The necessary cannot be changed

itself to itself

and

relates itself to itself

A necessary being would have to be something

that was completely independent of the actions of anything else, for it is

dependent on something

be what

it

else,

then again

it

if

would not necessarily

is.

So vehemently does Climacus hold

necessity apart from actuality,

that he rejects Aristotle's claim that there are two kinds of possibility in relation to necessity.'

'

Aristotle reasoned, plausibly enough, that

whatever was necessary was surely possible, since sible.'^

However, what

is

seems to imply that what

and thus

also

may not

merely possible is

cannot be impos-

it

may not

exist, so his

necessary and must exist

exist. Aristotle deals

with

this

is

view

also possible

by positing two

different kinds of possibility, mere possibility and the kind of possibility

which necessity

includes, but

Climacus

rejects this solution

his mistake lies in accepting the idea that the necessary

Climacus moves from

his claim about necessity to

was

and

says

possible.'^

some very sweep-

ing claims about the nature of the actual: "All coming into existence

Belief

way of

occurs through freedom, not by

and

necessity.

the

WiR

123

/

Nothing coming into

existence comes into existence by virtue of a ground, but everything

by a cause. Every cause ends in a freely acting

it

sounds

Nielsen again

cause."''*

finds this claim to be embarrassingly metaphysical,

and what

like Christian or at least theistic metaphysics.'^ It

indeed to understand here a reference to a world that

and whose contingency

reflects

of God. Nielsen says that

its

status as

we must

resist

is

worse,

seems natural contingent,

is

one created by a

free action

the temptation to read this

passage in that way, since Climacus has rejected natural theology in

chapter 3 and cannot appeal to the authority of revelation without violating the hypothetical character of his experiment. 1

think Nielsen

is

right to insist that

we must not read Christian

convictions into Climacus at this point, and indeed, his language sounds

more Greek than Christian. Every cause ends

in a freely acting cause,

but Climacus does not identify this freely acting cause with God, and indeed, does not even claim that cause. ficult

However, though

this

causes end with one freely acting

all

may not be

Christian metaphysics,

it is

dif-

not to see this as metaphysics. In claiming that everything that

happens does so ultimately because of a

freely acting cause,

Climacus

does seem to adopt a view of the world as rooted in personal agency, for the word "freedom" simply does not apply to anything other than actions.

Though

these

comments

are not explicitly Christian

and do not

even by themselves constitute a commitment to theism, they certainly

seem

to be congenial to a theistic

Does I

view of things.

this contradict the attack

cannot see

how

it

does, since, as

identify this freely acting cause,

on

natural theology in chapter 3?

have

I

even

if

said, there

we assume

is

no attempt

there

is

to

only one,

with God. Certainly this freely acting cause seems miles away from "the Truth," that truth that gives is

the real subject of chapter

3.

human beings their humanness, which

Even

thinks of the world as requiring a

if

speculative metaphysics rightly

"first

mover," that hardly would

constitute the Truth that Climacus thinks

is

bound up with

self-

knowledge. In any case,

focused

we must remember

that the attack in chapter 3

is

to prove that God exists. Even if Climacus is God in the Interlude, he is certainly not attempting to God exists. His claims come closer to being bald assertions

on attempts

thinking of

prove that

/

124

PASSIONATE REASON

/

than proofs; they are quite compatible with the view of chapter 3 that a type of knowledge of the

God can

be gained, not through a proof,

but through a "leap."

That, however, raises a different sort of question, namely what sort of justification Climacus can give for these claims. really gives

As

I

have

said,

he

nothing that could be called an argument for his view that

everything that comes into existence does so ultimately because of a "freely acting cause."

Why

does he think he

is

make such

entitled to

statements?

The

outrageousness of his procedure here

may be

partly attributable

to the whimsicalness of the literary structure at this point. recall that

Climacus purports only to be

the illusion that 1843 years have passed. Such a project

him

We

must

killing time, giving the reader

may

entitle

to a few bald claims, thought-provoking but not established.

However, the claims

The audience Climacus

in the context are not all that outrageous.

is

addressing consists of people

nominally Christian, even Christian commitments.

if

who

are at least

they do not fully understand their

As such they could be expected

own

to be familiar

with and accept the standard Christian view of the world as created

by

God

any

in a free action. In

case, since Climacus' purpose

is

to

explore the conceptual differences between Christianity and philosophical idealism,

it

is

not so outrageous for him to take for granted

the broadly theistic picture of things that Christianity presupposes.

we

In the final analysis, as

mological

issues,

support for the view that

all

into existence are contingent, truths.

Since

shall see

what Climacus

many

is

when we

get to the episte-

really interested in

is

providing

judgments about things that have come

and thus can never amount

philosophers

who

to necessary

reject the quasi-theistic

meta-

physics Climacus seems to espouse will accept this claim, the underlying

metaphysics

may not be

all

that important to his argument.

NATURE AND HISTORY In the second and very brief section of the Interlude, Climacus extends his analysis of

"coming into existence" by distinguishing between two

different senses of "history." In

one sense anything that has come into

Beh4 and

Win

the

existence has a past and therefore has a history.

125

/

The whole

natural

world can therefore in one sense be said to have a history, and one properly speaks of natural history.'^ In another sense, however, Climacus

have a history" because

says that nature "does not

Nature thus must be contrasted with that which

with respect to time" because

it

historical in the stricter sense

a redoubling (Fordobling), that

within

its

One

own coming

historical "in the stricter sense."

is

that

which "contains within

coming into existence

could hardly ask for denser philosophical prose than

Climacus

is

itself

into existence."^^

talking about being "dialectical with respect to time"

onym,

"dialectical

is

is

a possibility of a

is,

too abstract

is

sense of the word, with respect to

to be dialectical, in the stricter time."^^

The

"it

talking about the

I

this.

In

believe that

same thing another Kierkegaardian pseud-

Vigilius Haufniensis, discusses in

The Concept of Anxiety

making a distinction between mere time and

in

temporality.^^ Haufniensis

there says that temporality differs from mere succession by virtue of tense. Past, present,

and future

are qualitative features of experienced

or lived time that cannot simply be regarded as objective features of a successive universe, but arise

who

when

that universe

is

lived by a being

has the power to reflect on possibilities and act on them. Such a

being makes time "dialectical" by understanding the present as the

moment

in

which what he

what he could

necessarily

is

(the past)

is

projected into

possibly be (the future).

In a similar way, Climacus suggests that history in the stricter sense,

the kind of thing that

is

meant when we speak of the

person or a nation, only comes into being

when we have

being or beings on the scene, whose lives contain

history of a

a self-conscious

possibilities.

Human

beings are obviously natural creatures and share in the biological "history" of the planet.

However,

their nature as creatures

is

not fixed;

they are constituted by possibilities, not merely in the sense in which there are various possibilities for an animal or a plant, but in the stronger sense that scious

use

and can

made

humans have

possibilities of

Climacus thus seems to commit himself to

be

are con-

concerns the

of those possibilities.

rather strong sense.

To

which they

freely choose. History in the strict sense

Human

human freedom

in a

beings are "relatively freely acting causes."

sure, they are creatures,

which

is

why

their

freedom

is

only

'

126

relative,

PASSIONATE REASON

/

and must be placed within the context of "an absolutely

acting cause." Nevertheless,

human

characterized by contingency. since history

of

it

reflects the

freely

doubly

contingency

who have been

beings are creatures

brought into existence, but

is

the contingency of nature,

It reflects first

Human

itself.

which

a process

is

a part of nature, but secondly,

is

human freedom

freely

history

as part of their nature, they possess

the power to bring actions into existence. In

all

of this Climacus once

more seems

to help himself to a healthy

dose of metaphysics, and the quasi-Christian character of the metaphysics seems even to

whitewash

more pronounced. H. A. Nielsen once more

this, as if it

were something to be ashamed

that the second "coming into existence"

of the

self,

and that

that

all

this

is

thereby gains the power to speak a language. effecting cause speak.^°

who

identified with those

is

seems to miss the

fact that the

on freedom. History can apprehend

life

is

relatively freely

taught the individual to

my

first

have

is

not on language but

possible by the fact that

possibilities for action,

a language

making my

part of

focusing on, but Nielsen

made

me

freedom and the necessity

into a narrative by

events but the

is

past as providing I

is

emphasis here

in the strict sense

my

merely by the fact that past. It

that the individual

The

certainly correct to connect being able to use language

It is

with the reflective power that Climacus

I

tries

and suggests

the coming into existence

is

meant by

is

of,

not

by which to recount that

for decision that

makes my

past not merely a succession of

an on-going

story.

THE UNCHANGEABILITY OF THE PAST In the next two sections Climacus begins to reveal his agenda in his speculative claims.

event.

If it is

The paradox

of the god in time

is

making

a historical

possible to understand historical events as necessary, then

reason might be able to remove the paradox icalness of the paradox by

coming

to understand

it

as necessary.

Climacus' hypothesis, so he swiftly

by arguing that what be

is

historical

known as necessary. The claim that what

is

This would be a disaster for

moves

to block

any such attempt

not necessary and therefore cannot

has happened can be understood as necessary

Belief

and

the

WiR

111

/

was one that Hegelians had made. Hegel had taught that the movement of history as a whole was necessary in some sense, only

understand the necessity of what occurs at the time in retrospect. This

we cannot

occurs, but only

expressed in one of Hegel's most memorable

is

"The owl of Minerva fallen." It

it

takes flight only

seems quite obvious that

when

this

lines:

the shades of night have

Hegelian view

is

incompatible

with the metaphysics of freedom that Climacus has so boldly adopted

and assumed

but Climacus nevertheless takes the time to deal

as true,

with one confusion that makes the Hegelian view seem more plausible

than

it is.

This confusion

a failure to distinguish

is

changeability and metaphysical necessity.

and

as such,

past

is

not the same thing this.

as

What

to be otherwise than

understood the is

in such a case

is;

issue, since

historically

torical, since

no

remains contingent.

It

may be

we can reasonably hope to matter once we have fully

that

come

could have been otherwise.

losing sity

its

historicity.

It

his-

into existence with freedom,

Thus anyone who claims is

it

remains true that

contingency without

lose this

to understand the neces-

claiming to have a knowledge of

something historical that would transform torical, a curious

possible.

The

what has happened cannot now be

cannot

of a historical event in effect

is

this characteristic.

changed and thus cannot become otherwise, but it

unchangeableness

alternative state of affairs

unchangeable lacks

involves what has

it

this

metaphysically necessary cannot be conceived

is

it

historical un-

metaphysical necessity. Roughly, the difference

attain absolute certainty concerning the

What

between

quite true that the past

cannot be changed. However,

is

seems to be

It is

it

into something nonhis-

kind of knowledge indeed.^^

Climacus buttresses his argument here by some interesting claims about the relationship between the past and the future. if

one concedes the necessity of the

that the future

is

past,

then

it

He

says that

will follow logically

inevitable as well.^^ His thoughts here are supported

by an interesting and well-known argument for the truth of fatalism that has been developed by contemporary philosopher Richard Taylor.

Taylor precisely expresses a view of the past and future that

is

alternative to Climacus':

Yet, there

is

one thing

I

know concerning any

stranger's past

and

the

128

PASSIONATE REASON

/

the past of everything under the sun; namely, that whatever hold, there

is

nothing anyone can do about

happened cannot be undone. The mere guarantees

And

it

fact that

now. it

it

is,

by the same token, of the future of everything

anyone can do about fact that

it

it is

What

now.

going to

nothing

is

happen cannot be happen guarantees this." will

altered.

crucial issue here concerns the reality of freedom.

future contain real possibilities? Or, as Taylor claims,

"nothing becomes true or ceases to be simply

is

has

has happened

under the sun. Whatever the future might hold, there

The

might

this.

so

The mere

it

What

true."^'*

true;

is it

whatever

is

Does the

the case that truth at

Climacus would say that the error of Taylor

is

all

that

he has confused the unchangeableness of the past with metaphysical unchangeableness. Having stolen the contingency of the past, Taylor quite consistently robs the future of its openness as well.

point of view a philosopher necessity of the past

is

who

the mirror image of a prophet

be able to predict the future with

From Climacus'

claims to be able to understand the

who

claims to

inevitability.^^

THE NATURE OF HISTORICAL KNOWLEDGE: BELIEF AND THE WILL With a bit of metaphysics securely in place, Climacus can now focus on his primary epistemological concern, namely our cognitive relationship to past events. necessary, but

He

has ruled out any understanding of the past as

what type of understanding of the

Climacus' discussion here

is

past

is

possible?

complex; his main thrust seems to be to

emphasize the uncertainty of historical knowledge and the role of the will in

overcoming

this uncertainty.

His comments have been widely

read as rooted in skepticism, and his claims about the role of the will in the formation of belief

lence, since

have been taken

as irrationalism par excel-

he seems to many to embrace the absurd view that with

respect to historical matters

it

is

up to the individual to decide to

believe whatever he or she wants, regardless of the historical evidence that

may

bear

on the

matter.

I

believe that a careful reading of the

and

Belief

show

text will

129

/

that these criticisms are rooted in misinterpretations of

what Climacus actually

A

WiR

the

says.

good example of the

sort of criticism

1

have

in

mind here

provided by Louis Pojman. In his book Religious Belief and

Pojman has analyzed and is

criticized

is

the Will,'^^

what he terms volitionalism, which

a position that regards beliefs as under the control of the will.

Pojman

distinguishes several kinds of volitionalism." First, he distinguishes prescriptive from descriptive volitionalism. Prescriptive volitionalism a normative doctrine that holds that

it

is

permissible, perhaps

obligatory, to will to hold certain beliefs. Descriptive volitionalism

do

to

Pojman

is

have the

a psychological theory that holds that the will actually does

power

is

even

this.

also distinguishes direct

volitionalism treats the action by

from indirect volitionalism. Direct

which a

belief

is

formed

as a basic

action which can simply be willed. Indirect volitionalism regards the

formation of a belief as an outcome of doing other actions. Both

and descriptive volitionalism can be either

prescriptive

direct

or

indirect.

In his book

Pojman

analyzes Kierkegaard as a classic example of

volitionalism, basing his analysis primarily

whom

he

identifies

on the

with Kierkegaard. (For

writings of Climacus,

literary consistency

1

shall

henceforth speak of Climacus where Pojman discusses Kierkegaard, since

it is

the Climacus literature that

literature that

tionalist

who

is

my

is

mainly

at issue

and

it is

accepts both descriptive and prescriptive volitionalism.

Clim.acus and volitionalists in general are strongly criticized by

on

that

concern.) Pojman sees Climacus as a direct voli-

several counts. Direct, descriptive volitionalism

is

Pojman

said to run afoul

of psychological laws and to involve a conceptual confusion as well.^®

While Pojman allows

that

we can and do modify

beliefs indirectly,

and

thus concedes the truth of indirect, descriptive volitionalism, he claims that prescriptive volitionalism, even of the indirect sort,

censure.

A plausible ethics of belief must see

prima facie

Pojman

duty,^^ but

insists

siderations,^'^

is

truth-seeking as a strong,

forming a belief through an act of

must mean forming

it

subject to

will,

which

independently of evidential con-

shows a lack of concern

for truth. It

is

in fact a kind of

lying to oneself.^' I

shall

not here challenge Poj man's arguments against volitionalism,

/

130

though

PASSIONATE REASON

/

my judgment

in

they

fail,

due to overly

tious definitions of the positions attacked.

restricted

What

I

want

and tenden-

to

do

is

chal-

lenge his reading of Climacus as a direct volitionalist.

should be noted that Poj man's reading of Climacus

It

means unusual. Terence Penelhum,

for

and Skepticism, gives such a reading of Kierkegaard, identifies

belief as

Penelhum

an act of

in

will,

gaard's position

One way

can only be carried out with divine

sense.

assistance.^^

though

of defending Climacus' analysis of faith against this charge

faith "in the

Even

and thinks Kierke-

to indirect forms,

can be reformulated in these terms.

on the

of volitionalism would be to trade

between

all

though in the case of Christian

also regards this direct volitionalism as untenable,

somewhat more sympathetic

is

God

whom Penelhum

with Climacus. According to Penelhum, Kierkegaard saw

grounded

belief the act of will

he

by no

is

example, in his fine book

if

eminent sense" and

ordinary belief

not imply that the same

is

distinction Climacus

treated as subject to the will, this

is

makes

faith or belief in the ordinary

true for faith. Faith,

it

would

might be argued,

is

a miracle that resists philosophical analysis, the result of a divine act that

humans cannot fathom."

Even as to belief,

if

this line of

thought were sound,

I

would

still

be concerned

whether Climacus has given an adequate account of ordinary

and

I

see

no reason

an untenable volitionalism

to

concede the claim that he has adopted

in his

view of

that genuine faith has nothing to

stand up

belief.

However, the claim belief does not

do with ordinary

to critical scrutiny.

In fact, this claim makes

should invest so

Even more

much

it

mysterious

why Johannes Climacus

energy analyzing the concept of ordinary

significantly,

Climacus

says very clearly, as

we have

belief.

already

noted, that faith in the eminent sense includes faith in the ordinary sense as a component.^"* Climacus analyzes the concept of belief in the

ordinary sense because he sees eminent faith as a special kind of

Eminent

faith

adox

its

as

is

belief.

ordinary historical belief which has the absolute par-

historical content

and which

is

acquired, not through

considerations of evidence, but through a life-transforming encounter

with the god.

One cannot

then insulate Climacus' concept of faith against phil-

osophical scrutiny by claiming that

it

has nothing in

common

with

Belief

ordinary- belief. If volitionalism

who

wishes to see

if

is

and

the

WiH

131

/

an objectionable view, then anyone

Climacus' project has merit must challenge the

assumption that Kierkegaard

is

a direct volitionalist in his

view of

belief.

Why

do philosophers

Pojman and Penelhum

like

attribute direct

volitionalism to Climacus? Climacus does say in the Interlude that "belief

is

not a piece of knowledge but an act of freedom, an expression

He maintains that the

of will.'"^^

"conclusion of belief is not a conclusion

but a resolution," and that the opposite of

dent on the

belief,

doubt,

also

is

depen-

will.''^

We must look at the context of these remarks. The polemical target in

view here

is

the claim

we have

analyzed in the

last section,

made

by Hegel and employed by some religious Hegelians in the defense of Christianity, that historical events can be understood as necessary. If historical assertions could be converted philosophically to necessary truths,

then Christianity could retain

at the

same time gaining

a

its

historical critical scholarship. Climacus'

those

who would

argument

directed against

is

avoid risk and claim to attain a kind of final knowl-

edge, in this case of

Humean

historical foundations, while

kind of invulnerability to the ravages of

view that

human

all

history. Climacus' counter-position

is

the

matters of fact are contingent, historical matters

of fact being doubly so, and thus

no knowledge of

history

can attain

the certainty of a necessary truth.

SKEPTICISM AND DOUBT We

have seen that Climacus thinks metaphysical truths

rule out

any

understanding of history as necessary, but he underlines the point with

some epistemological

reflections that

cism, particularly Sextus Empiricus. ever, that

draw heavily on

It is

classical skepti-

important to recognize, how-

Climacus does not embrace skepticism himself.

He

borrows

arguments from the skeptics, but he says very clearly that he assumes that there

is

knowledge of the

past;

he only wants to analyze the nature

of this knowledge.^^

The account given

of historical knowledge

but the main points seem to

me

is

not easy to interpret,

to be as follows. First,

Climacus claims,

'

132

in

PASSIONATE REASON

/

agreement with both

cism, that there

classical

foundationalism and classical skepti-

"immediate sensation and

a category of truths,

is

cognition," which can be apprehended with certainty, and which "can-

not deceive. "^^ Climacus does not

spell out the nature of this

immediate

knowledge, which seems similar to Hume's knowledge of impressions,

and

it

me

seems to

in

many ways

a dubious position to hold.

However,

the realm of objectively certain knowledge Climacus here concedes

He

turns out to be vanishingly small.

meaning. The

first is

two examples

gives

that of perceiving a star; the second

to clarify his

perceiving

is

an event. In the

example, Climacus says that "when the perceiver sees

first

a star, the star

becomes dubious

aware that

has

what

(troer)

that

This

it it

does not

but

sees,

it

come

it

the

moment he

see;

"Thus

come

some have interpreted Climacus

a view star

is

one can

star,

since

rightly object that

as saying that

and

However,

this

I

becomes

clear

this

when we

light

but not

star,

Against such

being perceived

even possible that the

it is

do not think

past."*'

even our present awareness of the

an awareness of a past object, since the

has taken years to arrive, and exists.

occurred in the

it

exists, for

into existence."'*^

one can have im.mediate knowledge of the existence of a of the genesis of the

become

seeks to

faith (Tro) believes

does not believe that the star

it

believes that the star has

obscure, and

is

him

for

into existence."-"

star

no longer

can be Climacus' intended meaning,

look at the second example, that of

perceiving an event.

Here Climacus but not that occurring."'*^ star,

but

I

it

says that "the occurrence

I

am

it

is

in the process of

This may seem even more obscure than the case of the

believe what Climacus has in

the case of the star and the event, there

which

can be known immediately

has occurred, not even that

mind is

is

simply

this.

Both

in,

a something, a content, of

immediately aware. This something has been articulated

by different philosophers in different ways, but he surely has in view

what some have labeled "sense data," and what others have thought of in terms of what might be

been performed. Whatever diately aware,

world which

it

left after

this

a phenomenological epoche has

something

is

of which

we

are

imme-

cannot be identified with an object in the space-time

we think

of as "objective," out there, so to speak.

affirm the existence of a star as

To

an object which has "come into

BehefcmdtheWiR existence"

is

to affirm the existence of

my

diate content of

object with a it

experience.

pubUc

has occurred,"

something more than the imme-

to affirm the existence of a

It is

history. Similarly, to affirm of

that the event has occurred entails that one

is

pubUc

an occurrence "that

The

affirmation

committed

to affirming

not simply to utter a tautology.

is

133

/

a "transition from nothing, from non-being. "'^^ Here the event

is

again

not simply a content in one*s consciousness but a part of the public world, and such an affirmation carries with

for

it

Climacus inescapable

The risk is grounded in the logical gap between my experience, when that experience is construed as giving me certain knowledge, and risk.

the world as

Note

ordinarily perceive

I

that even

if

one

and act in

it

does not damage Climacus' main

this

judgments about matters of

fact.

and events

stars

But

now

the

to

Climacus sees in the argues that

main

issue,

agreeing that

and

the riskiness of

is

well find doctrines of sense

human judgments

fallible.

which concerns the implications

riskiness of affirmations about matters of fact.

He

the uncertainty of these judgments which makes skep-

it is

ticism possible.

still

are contingent

world of certainty,

which

thesis,

One may

data and their like dubious while

about

it.

rejects the implied inner

The Greek skeptics "doubted not by virtue of knowledge

but by virtue of

will."'^'^

This in turn implies that "doubt can be

The

nature of doubt

in turn illuminates the true nature of faith or belief,

which must be

terminated only in freedom, by an act of

will."^^

seen as the "opposite passion of doubt.""^^

Pojman

reads these passages as a

of volitionalism.. beliefs are if I

believe that

I

commitment

to

sees the matter, Kierkegaard

an extreme form is

saying that

all

under the direct and immediate control of the believer. Thus

words, or that decision

As he

I

I

am looking at a computer screen as I bom in Atlanta, Georgia, this is the

was

have made, and

1

type these result of a

could easily have willed to believe the

opposite of these things, regardless of the evidence. Such a position implausible, to say the least.

under I

It

is

does not appear that beliefs are normally

direct, voluntary control in this way.

believe that Poj man's reading rests

what Climacus means by such terms tracing belief to will, Climacus by beliefs are consciously chosen.

on

a faulty understanding of

as "will"

no means

and "freedom."

First, in

necessarily implies that

Climacus does not

tell

us very

much

134

PASSIONATE REASON

/

about the psychological theories he holds, but

seems

it

fair to

assume

that he would accept the general psychological convictions that Kierke-

gaard and other Kierkegaardian pseudonyms hold. This assumption

is

especially reasonable in the context of responding to criticisms like

who

those of Pojman, If

he

is

anything

is

identifies Kierkegaard

evident about Kierkegaard as a psychologist,

While Kierkegaard

a depth psychologist.

central place in the

make

hardly ever

with Climacus.

human

full

that

he thinks that human beings

personality,

choices with

it is

certainly assigns will a

consciousness of what they are

doing. In The Sickness unto Death, for example, though both despair

and

sin are traced to the will, the

most people are in despair and

what one

is

doing

is

pseudonym Anti-Climacus

sin unconsciously.

Lack of

says that

clarity

about

the rule, not the exception, in the Kierkegaardian

picture of the personality.

This point Fragments.

skepticism

is

just as

The Greek is

rooted in

evident in the discussion of skepticism in

skeptic would agree will,

and understand that

according to Climacus,

to the degree that

his

he

has understood himself ^'^ [emphasis mine] This implies, of course, that

the skeptic

may not understand

himself,

may not

realize that

because he wills to doubt. Thus, to say that belief will

by no means implies that belief

is

is

he doubts

grounded in the

always or even usually the result

of a conscious act of willing.

Secondly, Climacus nowhere says that beliefs can be controlled by the will

directly.

Poj man's reading implies that beliefs can be produced

or annihilated willy-nilly, but this

is

simply not present in the text.

Pojman simply does not consider the speaking of the in

human power

mind the well-known

fact that beliefs

in the course of doing other things.

Climacus has in mind both belief and doubt

is

possibility that Climacus,

to will to believe something,

That

can be modified

it is

in

may have indirectly,

the latter possibility that

strongly suggested by the fact that he calls

passions."*^

Passions are not things that can be

created by an immediate act of will, and neither Kierkegaard nor

Climacus conceives of them

as that sort of thing. Passions are things

and constantly renewed. Acts of willing and Kierkegaard regards the higher ethical things we are responsible to achieve. However,

that must be slowly cultivated

play a role in this cultivation,

and

religious passions as

by and

large, passions are

formed on a long-term

basis,

and they are

BeMandtheWiR

135

/

not simply willed into existence, but formed indirectly through a process of wiUing to do other things.

Strong support for this interpretation

found in the discussions of

is

skepticism in the Postscript and in Fear and Trembling.

which

parallels a familiar refrain in

Hume,

Contemporary Hegelians, who claim

is

have overcome skepticism

to

through a universal doubt which overcomes

itself,

mercilessly

are

on the grounds that universal doubt cannot

attacked, primarily

be achieved,

A major theme,

the difficulty of skepticism.

much

less

overcome

could

if it

be."*^

What

which he

skeptic regarded as the task of a lifetime, an infinite goal

could only hope to approximate, since

from

us,

is

lecture. It

possibly

the ancient

continually elicits belief

life

accomplished by the contemporary professor in his opening the fact that doubts

is

—and

beliefs



are not always

under

our voluntary control that makes such a professor a comic figure for

The

Kierkegaard.

doubt

difficulty of

is

major theme of the

also a

unfinished Johannes Climacus.

And

of course the same

is

true of other passions discussed in the

Kierkegaardian literature, especially the passion of

faith.

The polemic

against "going further" than faith, for example, presupposes that faith is

not something one can acquire simply by

fiat.^°

Once more,

it is

said

to be a task for a lifetime.

A the

plausible reading of Climacus' discussion of the role of will in

life

of the skeptic must

of mind. is

It is

first

focus

on the

skeptic's goal: tranquility

the attainment and sustaining of this state of

the primary object of the skeptic's

from drawing conclusions.

A

will.

To

hasty reading

this

may

end he

mind which

wills to refrain

suggest that Climacus

thinks that the skeptics can do this by a direct act of will: "By the

power of the

will

he (the skeptic) decides to restrain himself and hold

himself back... from any conclusion."^^ Climacus emphasizes that the will that

is

decisive here, not rational argument: "Insofar as

skeptic) uses dialectics in continually

are

nothing

more

than

is

making the opposite equally

probable, he does not erect his skepticism

which

it

he (the

on

outer

dialectical arguments, fortifications,

human

accommodations.""

Though

the emphasis

is

on the

will, since

Climacus wishes to claim

that the skeptic

is

a skeptic in the final analysis because

a skeptic, there

is

no claim here that

he

wills to

belief states are always or

be

even

136

PASSIONATE REASON

/

ever under the direct control of the

will is

is

indirect.

Though

the contrary, there

the ultimate source of doubt

make

These may be denigrated

tions."

as

is

the

cases the control exercised hy the

the

is

doubt

will,

human

achieved through cognitive means. Because of the facts of

psychology, the skeptic must

is

On

will.

some

clear statement that at least in

use of dialectics, "outer fortifica-

"human accommodations,"

but

it

nonetheless important that such accommodations are necessary.

Climacus also says that the skeptic "used cognition to preserve

his state

of mind."" This suggests that the control exercised by the skeptic was at least

not complete, and that

it

was achieved by such techniques

looking for evidence on the other side of a belief toward which one inclined, constructing arguments sides of

an

issue,

and so

So Climacus' point

which

as is

on both

are equally balanced

forth. is

not the indefensible claim that beliefs are

always simply willed into being, regardless of the evidential situation of the believer.

It is

between whatever

totally objective, certain

makes skepticism

is

a logical gap

evidence we have for mat-

of fact, and our beliefs about these matters.

ters

it

rather the subtler claim that there

as a willed life-stance possible.

this

gap which

It

is

It

provides room, as

were, for the skeptic to do what he needs to do to arrive at a state

of suspended judgment, though this certainly not be successful in

need to do that

is

is

not spelled out, and there

a matter of empirical psychology.

what must be done strategies

not necessarily easy and will

What is

exactly the skeptic will

no reason

it

should be, since

Climacus evidently thinks that

to be a skeptic will include familiar cognitive

such as focusing on arguments for both sides of a position.

Since most of us are not skeptics, differ

is

all cases.

from

it

follows that

the skeptic in a crucial respect.

We

we nonskeptics must

do not

will to

that state of suspended judgment that the skeptic longs different ends

and consequently do not embark on the

the skeptic employs to achieve his ends. Climacus

think that particular beliefs the

will,

case.

does think

is

We

for.

activities

may

or

have

which

may not

are sometimes under the direct control of

but he certainly does not think this

What he

achieve

that

ultimately plays a decisive role in

This claim may point to a

is

always or generally the

what we want

to believe

what we do believe and

fact of

human

and think think.

psychology which

many

philosophers find regrettable, and not to be welcomed, but so far from

BeMcmdtheWiR being implausible,

comments

find

I

it

Who

utterly undeniable.

137

/

can observe the

of hearers after a so-called debate between the presidential

candidates without realizing that the beliefs of the hearers about

won

the debate,

who had

heavily shaped by their It is

commitments

a plain and evident fact of

how we

interpret evidence,

be good evidence, influence flecting

is

on

human

one candidate or the other?

psychology, like

my whole

a presidential debate

much more

I

I

Of

course this

noetic structure. In re-

recently saw,

1

believe that one

sincere and concerned about important

problems than the other, not simply because but because

or not, that

it

weigh evidence, even what we consider to

generally mediated by

candidate was

to

heavily shaped by our desires.

is

I

want that

to be true,

was already convinced that the second candidate was an

unprincipled opportunist. However, the past beliefs which

on the

to bear

who

the strongest arguments, and so on, are

situation were equally colored by

emotions, and values. So will

still

my

I

brought

past desires,

played a significant factor in shaping

the belief.

When we come

to

sense, the logical gap

what Climacus

between

calls

the historical in the strict

totally objective, certain

evidence and

Here we have not only the contingency

belief

becomes even

of

matters of fact, but the double contingency introduced by free

all

human

actions,

greater.

which always must be interpreted and understood.

Climacus seems to be right in maintaining that there

room

for

disagreement and uncertainty with regard to

and hence more room

for skeptical stratagems, as

is

even more

human

activity,

shown by the

is

status

of such disciplines as history and sociology as compared with physics

and chemistry. Notice that Climacus does not seem to adopt a radical relativism or historicism

on the

basis of his assertion of the significance of sub-

jective factors in the formation of belief.

there

is

no objective

is

is,

he does not say that

truth about nature or history.

that our beliefs cannot be true in to maintain

That

some objective

Nor does he claim

sense. All

he wants

that our beliefs always contain an element of risk, because

the objective evidential situation always contains an element of uncertainty is

which we resolve

made

in the formation of our beliefs. This resolution

possible by our desires, hopes,

and

fears,

and so on, which in

turn reflect themselves in our behavior and choices. Climacus' general

138

term in

PASSIONATE REASON

/

for this "subjective" factor in belief

many ways

a poor choice, but

personal responsibility.

He

may be

"will." It

is

Climacus' desire to maintain

does not see this emphasis on "subjectivity"

as alien to or incompatible

When human

formation

reflects

it

with a concern for truth.

beings resolve their beliefs in certain directions, they

certainly are not motivated solely by "objective" evidence, but there is

no reason

essarily lead

to assume that they think that "subjective" factors nec-

them away from the

truth.

On

the contrary,

we

generally

think that subjective factors can help as well as hinder the search for truth.

Hence

it is

not surprising that Climacus seems quite

his assumptions about truth

subjectivity with a realism that it

realistic in

and cheerfully combines an emphasis on

may

rightly be

termed "Greek," since

follows Plato and Aristotle very closely. In the next section

explore in more depth the question of whether this emphasis jectivity

is

I

on

shall

sub-

indeed compatible with a concern for truth.

EMINENT FAITH AND THE ROLE OF WILL I

believe that

I

have cleared Climacus of the charge that he holds to

an untenable form of descriptive volitionalism, which

humans the power

form their

to

beliefs willy-nilly,

new human

ascribes

cognitive considerations. However, a

criticism

defense. Suppose that

beliefs are frequently

by our

it is

desires, hopes,

fact to be derided,

true that

and

fears.

is

to

independently of suggested by

my

shaped

Surely that represents a melancholy

not a goal to be emulated. However, Climacus seems

to think a prescriptive volitionalism that accepts willing to believe

praiseworthy.

Pojman and others who share

of belief regard this as wrong; they say

a

commitment

to

is

an ethics

we ought to form our beliefs on we can. Is it possible for will

the basis of evidence to the extent that

to play a role in the acquisition of belief without the a concern for truth?

I

shall try to argue that

acquisition of faith in the eminent sense. to faith in the paradox because that

and

in

Actually, he says

abandonment of

can, at least for the

shall restrict

my

discussion

the main concern of Climacus,

how

the will operates in

enough about how the

will operates in the

any case he says very

other cases to shape

is

I

it

little

about

just

belief. little

Belief

case of eminent faith as well, but

and

WiR

the

believe he says

I

139

/

enough

faith in the paradox.

On the

to enable

coming

us to construct a plausible account of the role will plays in

typical picture given of Climacus' account

The

of faith and the will, a concern for truth seems totally absent. typical picture given of

(Though the

faith."

Postscript rather

to

eminent

faith

that

is

requires a "leap of

it

comes from

discussion of faith as involving a leap

than Fragments.) The leap

is

necessary because Chris-

tian faith requires belief in the reality of the incarnation, the absolute

paradox, which the critic perceives as a logical contradiction. Assisted

by divine grace, the believer manages, through a heroic act of

what he knows

get himself to believe

is

absurd, for

what

is

will, to

logically

contradictory could not possibly occur. In the previous chapters is

I

fundamentally flawed. Here

The paradox

conclusions.

a logical contradiction.

have shown that

this picture

shall briefly recapitulate

some of my

believe I

of the incarnation cannot be

It

is

human

a mystery to

appears to be a contradiction to us

make

I

known

reason,

when we attempt

to master

totally incongruous. It appears to us to

that

God and man

our sinfulness makes

it

dismiss

To know

we

lack any such knowledge.

possess;

it

is

a logical contradiction, it

means

The

to see the limitations of her

person

who can

given

in-

will

as

to be

we would

God and

Climacus spins

it

to be out,

is

God is not something God himself. The person who own knowledge in this area is a truth about

must be brought to us by

comes

an act of

is

demands

what we cannot dominate and master.

that the incarnation

human. The message of the B hypothesis, that

is

be a contradiction, not because

impossible for us to understand an act which

have to have a clear grasp of what

we

and it

are mutually exclusive genuses, but because

a manifestation of pure, unselfish love, and our pridefulness

we

it

our own. Relative to our experience and expectations,

it

we know

that

to be

one which

respond to

on the

God

in faith. This faith

is

part of the believer, but rather

not produced by is

a gift of

God,

a first-person encounter.^"*

Just as a

convinced mind-body dualist might be convinced that the

paradoxical notion of a thinking brain

is

a reality

if

he should encounter

one, so the believer might be convinced that the paradoxical notion of the

God-man

is

a reality by a personally transforming first-person

encounter with the God-man." The belief

is

a response to the trans-

140

PASSIONATE REASON

/

forming encounter with

not of some arbitrary act of

reality,

from being an abandonment of any concern

changed her mind about what

true as a result of

is

will.

Far

for truth, the believer has

an encounter with

the Truth in which she has acquired the Truth.

Does

account leave any role

this

of will,"

it

is

tempting to say that

in the acquisition of faith. in accord with

a doctrine for

is

to play a role. Early

informed us that there

B

is

because

I

view

me

I

role at all

who

on

does leave some "room"

book he has already

in the

one point of analogy between the Socratic

is

Socratically

that

is

my

am

I

sinfulness

is

cannot discover

this act of

con-

untruth] the Socratic principle applies: the

my own

can discover

"To

in untruth.

may

only an occasion, whoever he

Even my

no

hypothesis; the one thing that the god in time can

sciousness [discovering

teacher

willing plays

Such a view of faith could easily be completed

not for Climacus, however,

position and the

me

human

not an act

is

well-known Christian doctrines of predestination. Such

human agency

teach

When we

for the will at all?

consider the explicit statement of Climacus that "faith

be,

even

he

if

a god,

is

untruth only by myself."^^

something that must be revealed; on Climacus' it

when

by myself. However,

in the encounter with the

god

have a choice

I

is

revealed to

as to

whether to

it

accept this insight. This choice turns out to be decisive for whether acquire faith or not, since

in turn

it

is

to understand the limitations of

my

the paradox, since that reaction

is

We

a gift of the god.

It

However, an

The

a transforming one.

if

revelation

is

act of will

is

is

I

I

can come

natural reaction to

my

sin.

in the

role of will

not an act of

necessary

the encounter with the

if

will;

the

God-man

it

gift is

is

to be

my own ideas about God are must accept my dependence on a divine

recognition that

irremediably flawed and that

I

not easily attained. Such a recognition runs counter to

natural, sinful tendency to assert

change me, what

required

is

changed. Humility

is

is

a

willed.

my own autonomy. which

What

is

I

know

is

God

it is

is

to

to be

quite proper to see as

required in the leap of faith

not an immoral attempt to manipulate

myself believe what

If

humble acceptance of my need

a moral quality

something which must be is

its

shaped by

remains true that faith

to be received, necessary

my

reason and

itself

can now understand something of the

acquisition of faith. is

decisive for whether

my

untrue. Rather,

I

beliefs so as to

am

make

asked to transform

Belief

myself so that

my

necessary

is

the

is

life.

some

individual as retaining

it

as necessary to see the

natural, intellectual ability,

Even

his honest recognition of his ignorance.

possible by the encounter with

is

on anyone. Such

essentially m.oral

quences, and

and

God, but

it is

namely the

wisdom consisted

ability to recognize its inability, just as Socrates'

forces

141

/

the relinquishment of imperialistic reason and

the acquisition of humility. Climacus saw

God

WiR

can be open to an encounter with the tmth which

I

will totally transform

What

and

this recognition

is

in

made

not a recognition which

a transformation from pride to humility

however

practical,

vast

its

intellectual conse-

attainment requires no sin against any plausible ethics

its

of belief. In seeing the passion of faith as grounded in the leap of the will,

Climacus

is

not endorsing manipulation of

beliefs,

but recognizing

the essential role moral character plays in the quest for truth, especially

with regard to religious truth.

Eminent

be

faith turns out to

uncertain for Climacus. Since into existence,

it

shares with

triply

its

all

contingent and therefore triply

content

coming into existence introduces. Since the

the god

who

god's appearance

freedom involved in

human

history,

which

is

own unique

The

shaped expectations of what

though is

more

to be

this

the

I

Finally,

is

I

the

natural,

will,

decide not to follow the strenuous path of

not necessarily a conscious, datable decision.

to in retrospect. For

by Christianity, then that pertains to

in the

If

me, there

can know something about

Roman Empire

The

my

has

probable.

long-term fundamental project that

committed I

is

it is

have, consciously or unconsciously, chosen to believe,

choice

like a

world and

histori-

two kinds of uncertainty get resolved by the human

first

according to Climacus. the skeptic,

is

uncertainty, since the god's appearance in time

absolute paradox, the event that absolutely goes against sinfully

come

constituted by a

"coming into existence within a coming into existence." its

has

with other historical truths the uncertainty that attaches

cal, it shares

to the

is

matters of fact the contingency that

fell I

because

its

it.

If

I

I

may really

It

discover myself is

an external

decide to believe that

moral toughness was undermined

have successfully resolved the greater uncertainty

human

history.

uncertainty that attaches to the paradox cannot be resolved

same manner.

It

can only be resolved

as a result of the

encounter

142

/

PASSIONATE REASON

with the god through one of the two passions that ensue from that encounter: offense or faith. Will does play a role, however, in deter-

mining which of these passions ensues from the encounter. Nevertheless, faith in the paradox shares the other two kinds of uncertainty, and Climacus views this as significant, since barrier to

anyone who would

it

implies a

try to substitute objective factors for

subjective factors in the acquisition of faith. This cannot even be successfully for

which involves

ordmary all

faith. It

is

utterly impossible for

eminent

the uncertainty of the other kinds as well as

unique uncertainty. In get resolved. Existing

all

done faith,

its

own

of these cases, however, the uncertainties do

human

beings do arrive at beliefs, and

encounter the incarnation they also arrive

at faith

—and

when

offense.

they

CHAPTER

FAITH

AND HISTORY

In chapter 5 Climacus returns to the question of a later generation

might become

posed ironically in the chapter

how

title,

"The

the

The

disciples of the god.

Disciple at

members

second hand.

A

is

Second Hand,"

since chapter 4 has already forcefully argued that there can be disciple at

of

question

person becomes a disciple only by a

no

first-

person encounter with the god in which the god grants the condition of faith.

Thus every

disciple, of

whatever generation,

of the god in the significant sense, and

historical

is

a contemporary

contemporaneity

becomes unimportant. In essence, then, the problem posed in chapter 5 has already been

answered in chapter locutor,

who

4,

which

leads

Climacus to hope that the

inter-

has already claimed to have immediately discerned the

far-reaching consequences of that chapter, perhaps perceives the impossibility of asking

about a "disciple at second hand." Alas, the

whose dimness

terlocutor,

is

becoming

point. Instead of seeing that the

hand

is

in-

a bit tiresome, does not get the

whole question of a

disciple at

second

based on a confusion, the interlocutor, befuddled by the 1843

years that

correct to

have supposedly passed during the Interlude, wonders

lump

all

if it is

the subsequent generations together. Should one

not consider whether the situation of the people of the third generation

might

differ

from the people of the

fifth

generation, and so on?^

Climacus patiently humors the interlocutor by embarking on a detailed comparison of the two extremes within the class of later

generations, the

generation.

We

will turn out to

first

generation after the god's appearance and the

last

can be confident that the differences between the two be relative and inconsequential, since

if

there

is

no

i

^

144

/

PASSIONATE REASON between

essential difference ciple,

it

a historical

would be surprising indeed

"later disciples"

some

advantage over

earlier

later

if

contemporary and

a later dis-

within the general category of

generation turned out to possess an essential

ones in the acquisition of

faith.

THE FIRST AND LATEST GENERATIONS OF "SECONDARY" DISCIPLES The comparison between of later disciples

the two extremes within the general category

executed

is

briskly.

The

first

generation has the ad-

vantage of being closer in time to the god's appearance. This makes easier for

them

it

to obtain accurate historical information about the

event.

Of

that

inherent in the historical realm, according to the Interlude, and

is

course even this generation must deal with the uncertainty

thus cannot gain absolute certainty, especially with regard to the details.

Climacus argues that contradictions with respect

what one would expect from the most agreement would probably be the

However, the

really decisive

minor

to

details

result of a

problem

concocted

story.

for the first generation

the fact in question, the paradoxical entry of the god into time, a "simple historical fact." in

human

nesses, so

The

is

truthful witnesses, since complete

divinity of the god, since he

is

is

is

that

not

present

form, could not be directly observed, even by the eyewitit

could hardly be directly inferred from the testimony of

those witnesses to their immediate successors. Even the miracles or

god are of no value to those

signs performed by the

The

only genuine advantage possessed by the is

the god's appearance

is

sure to bring. This jolt

will certainly attract attention

and

is

raise the

is

valuable in that

it

awareness of the people

by no means partial to

as easily lead to offense.'*

The

person that a decision

called for.

later

generation, ac-

first

Unfortunately or fortunately, this heightened aware-

ness, according to Climacus,

The

lack faith.'

that they are closer in time to the "jolt" that

cording to Climacus,

who hear the news.

who

is

only advantage

is

that

faith;

it is

it

can

just

clearer to the

generation has the apparent advantage of being able to

observe the consequences of the god's appearance. fact in question has

If

perchance the

"completely transformed the world, has penetrated

Fcddi

even the most insignificant provides those

who come

trifle

with

and History

145

/

omnipresence,"^ then this

its

CUmacus

with a "probability proof.

later

has several reasons for thinking this advantage to be an illusion.

he argues that the consequences of a of the fact, any

this.

more than

the fact in question

is.^ If

if

fact of

who

his father

no consequences can

a paradox, then

Secondly, he argues that

First,

cannot change the character

can change the

a son

is

fact

alter

indeed transformed the

this fact has

come about through the power of the faith it has inspired.^ If those consequences make faith unnecessary, then presumably the consequences may well undo themselves. Most world in such a manner,

important, however,

it

has

the fact that historical significance

is

is

no

guar-

antee of truth, since misunderstandings can also have consequences,

and untruths can be powerful. In is

full

Climacus says that

fact,

human history

of this phenomenon.^ This last point throws a significant light

on how Climacus understands

"truth." Kierkegaard's writings are often

read as developing a "subjective" concept of truth, in which truth

simply this

identified with the existential

is

me

argument seems to

an element of objectivity to

power of an

idea.

Climacus in

onto a concept of truth that has

to hold

since he here claims that a falsehood

it,

can be existentially powerful.

So neither the

greater historical accuracy of the

first

generation

with respect to the original fact nor the long-range historical perspective

who can

of the later generation,

see the original fact as the beginning

of a process, has any real value for Climacus. clings to in

both cases

could only serve to

is

make

partial to probability



some

basic insight Climacus

that the evidence available to each generation faith

more probable, but

to say that about faith

low estimate of the value of probability consider in

The

detail later, for

is

"faith

would be

is

by no means

slander. "^° This

something that we

will

crucial to Climacus' rejection of

it is

historical apologetics.

clear that of the

two types of

is

the

argument from the consequences that draws Climacus' greatest

ire.

It is

Someone who

thinks that the

their greater historical

generation

first

mformation

historical apologetics,

is

is

better off because of

mistaken, and the mistake has as

a practical consequence a romantic delusion that

better to

it

it

would have been

have lived near the time of the god's appearance. However,

the delusion of the later generation

is

more

pernicious.

The

idea that

146

PASSIONATE REASON

/

the consequences of the fact qualitatively alter the situation of the later believer

tantamount to the notion that

is

"naturalized."" Clearly, Climacus has in

one born it

is

might become

mind here the

idea that some-

might simply possess

in a "Christian land"

faith automatically;

the same idea that he skewers in Postscript in his discussions of

whether a person might gain an

faith

faith automatically

and which becomes the

infant,

by being baptized as

target of Kierkegaard's final attack

on "Christendom."

The notion

that faith might

become

naturalized in this

ultimate in lunacy, according to Climacus, since

bom

claim that one can be

second birth are

it

way

amounts

is

to the

with one's second nature. Birth and the

Climacus says that he can make som.e

identified.'^

sense even of the doctrine of reincarnation, but the idea of being

with faith

"is just as plausible as

Climacus'

venom

makes

criticism

it

here

is

being

instructive,

no sense of

a

bom

twenty-four years old."" his criticism.

clear that logical clarity

first

birth that

first birth.

is

bom

as

is

First,

the

and the avoidance of con-

tradiction are things that Climacus prizes very highly.

presupposes a

the

He can make

simultaneously a second birth that

This confirms our

paradox cannot properly be understood

as

earlier

contention that the

something that contains a

logical contradiction.

The ground I

for the

venom of the

think the right clue here

to

its

domestication.^'^

The

is

attack

is

perhaps harder to discem.

that the naturalization of faith

evil of

Christendom

something of surpassing value in Christianity,

is

its

It is

and transform things.

of

its

it

amounts

eliminates

discontinuity with

this discontinuity that

the existing order of things. for Christianity to subvert

tianity

that

To

makes

it

possible

naturalize Chris-

therefore to deify the established order, to rob Christianity

is

power

to call into question established values, attitudes,

and

institutions.

THE IRRELEVANCE OF HISTORICAL EVIDENCE FOR FAITH Having

dealt with the quibbles of the interlocutor

differences

between

later generations,

conceming the

Climacus returns to the central

Fcdth

issue,

which concerns the

and History

/

147

situation of the later disciple. Before an-

swering the question, which he actually has already answered in chapter 4,

he makes some "observations

he describes three possible categories under

Essentially,

sibilities.^^

which the

fact of the

god in time might

fall.

the fact might be a simple historical

First,

concerning the pos-

for orientation"

a historical contemporary

is

In this case being

fact.

an advantage, but

in that case the fact

could only have relative value and significance. Secondly, the fact

might be an "eternal

He

fact."

This concept

says of such a fact that "every age

an example of the

not immediately transparent.

is

equally close to

is

alleged philosophical insight such as the

Hindu conviction

human

The

being

is

suffering stems

Such

insights

divine:

"That

Perhaps

it."^^

Climacus has in mind would be an

sort of thing

art thou."

that every

claims of Buddhists that

from the desires of the ego might be another example.

have no

They may have been their truth does not

connection to any "datable" event.

intrinsic

first

propounded by some

historical figure, but

depend on any knowledge of the propounder's

or any other historical event.

They

life,

are pure "Socratic" truths.

Eternal facts are then equally available to every historical period,

but Climacus says that such truths are not grasped by faith, for "faith

and the

historical correspond perfectly to

here that Clim.acus sense.

is

each other."^^

using the term "faith" in a

It is

obvious

somewhat technical

People often do speak of someone's commitment to some

"Socratic" principle as a faith commitment, and Climacus himself

admits in Postscript that his usage

can speak of Socrates Climacus

is

quite justified in his

big difference in

between

is

a bit fastidious here

as possessing a

main

kind of point,

which

a faith like Christianity,

and that one Nevertheless,

faith.^^

that there

is

which involves

genuine historical events, and the "faith" that

is

a

belief

involved in ac-

is

The

historicity of the former type of

belief involves possibilities for being

mistaken that are absent in the

cepting some Socratic principle.

latter case.

The fact."^^

third possibility

hypothesis belongs is

is

that the fact in question

This category, which to, is a

is

kind of hybrid of the

historical, as in the case of the first category,

an eternal

is

"an absolute

of course the one Climacus says his

fact in being equally relevant

first

but

two.

it

is

and available

Its

content

absolute like to every gen-

148

PASSIONATE REASON

/

eration. "If that fact

an absolute

is

fact,... then it

is

a contradiction for

time to be able to apportion the relations of people to the historical

essential

is

if

his hypothesis

is

it."^°

So, although

not to collapse back into

a Socratic position, the historical aspect must not "be accentuated in

such a way that

it

becomes absolutely decisive

for individuals."^^ Fol-

lowing this line of course requires that Climacus adhere to the view

he has already announced, that there contemporary generation or any

The

reason this

is

so

is

later

that faith

is

no advantage

is

one

to either the

in the acquisition of faith.

always acquired in a first-hand

transformative encounter. For the historical contemporary, his percep-

god provides the occasion

tual experience of the

for this encounter,

while for the later generation the report of the contemporary provides the occasion.

There

What

is

essential

the transforming encounter

is

clearly a kind of egalitarian assumption lying

is

itself.

behind the

claims Climacus makes about the necessity for an "absolute fact" to be equally available to every generation.

but the idea life

is

roughly that whatever

It is difficult it

is

and

in isolation,

might be defended, but line of defense. If

would

it

not be

a principle,

"Would

it

we assume

fair

difficult to see

is

later in the

and

to put

God

God

way

When

and

justly?

he would

human

being at every time

Climacus' egalitarian principle

God

it

is

linked

acquires great appeal, though

it

self-evidently true. is

clearly a large part of the reason that

sticks strongly to his

formula for the later generation's ac-

This egalitarian principle

Climacus

fairly

whom

not be worthy of the god to make the

to the concept of

by no means

Put so

that Christianity accepts,

and would we not expect God to operate

in every place...""

human

such an assumption

the god allow the power of time to decide it

history.

to operate along the lines of such

reconciliation equally difficult for every

in this

how

precisely,

it

essential for

chapter Climacus suggests a plausible

the kind of

just of

grant his favor, or would

is

is

must be equally available to every age of human

baldly

and

that

quisition of faith: ''By means of the contemporary's report (the occasion),

the person

who comes

later believes

by the power of the condition he

himself receives from the god."^^ Since the historical records are only

an occasion, the accuracy and completeness of the records are completely insignificant. "Even if the contemporary generation had not left anything behind except these words, 'We have believed that in such

Fcdth

and such a year the god appeared lived

and taught among

149

/

humble form of

a servant,

more than

enough."^"*

died,' that

is

then Christians and those considering Christianity

If this is right,

who

in the

and then

us,

and History

worry about the strength of the historical evidence of the gospels

New Testament are misled. The historical records do not function

in the

but as occasion for an encounter with the god, and their

as evidence,

ability to

do that

unrelated to their quality as historical evidence.

is

In any case Climacus says that the content of the alleged fact, being a paradox,

not the sort of thing for which any evidence would

is

be adequate. "Law7ers say that a capital crime absorbs crimes



so also with faith:

Discrepancies,

ters.

its

which

all

the lesser

absurdity completely absorbs minor mat-

usually are disturbing,

do not disturb here

and do not matter."" There are several

different kinds of issues that are tied together in

Climacus' dismissal of the relevance of historical evidence. is

the egalitarian principle

we have

First,

identified. Secondly, there

claim that the encounter with the god

is

there is

the

unaffected by the quality of

the historical records, which function solely as an "occasion." Thirdly, there

is

the contention that the paradoxical content of the belief in

this case

warrant

such that no historical evidence would be sufficient to

is

belief,

and hence

actual evidence available egalitarianism,

it

is

makes no difference whatsoever

poor in quality.

I

and then deal with these other

shall focus first

issues in the

if

the

on the

next section.

CLIMACUS THE EGALITARIAN The

egalitarian principle

thing like this principle

Climacus seems to accept

is, I

suspect, a chief reason

is

appealing.

Some-

why many modem

theologians reject the idea that historical beliefs are necessary for salvation,

which converts

their

brand of Christianity into a Socratic

view, according to Climacus.^^ Climacus, however, thinks that the principle

is

compatible with the traditional Christian understanding of

faith as including historical beliefs,

from the dead

However is

hard to see

after suffering

such as the belief that Jesus rose

under Pontius

appealing, this principle

how

a Truth that

is

is

Pilate.

problematic for Climacus.

historical

It

can be "equally available

150

PASSIONATE REASON

/

to people in every time

and place." Even

if

Climacus

is

right in his

contention that the contemporary generation has no essential advantage over later generations, that hardly

demands.

Many

amounts

to the equality

he

people in both the contemporary and later generations

cannot possibly have

faith in Climacus' sense, for the simple reason

that they live in places where the story has not reached, even in a

fragmentary way. Such people

may not be excluded from

the Truth by

being members of a particular generation, but they are surely excluded

by being part of a particular region, and

as

Climacus himself

affirms,

discrimination by geography seems no better than discrimination by time.

And

with respect to the generations that lived before the god's

appearance, time would appear to decide whether faith for

is

a possibility

them. Perhaps Climacus would be better off weakening his egalitarian

principle to something like the claim that

among

those

who have been

confronted by the news about the god's appearance, there of opportunity.

The

is

equality

quality of evidence then will be irrelevant for this

may be salvageable, but it faces problems too, in light of what we know about the sociology of knowledge. It does not appear obvious that those who have heard of class of people.

the event are

Something

like this principle

on an equal

footing, for they

same way. Does a young Marxist

who

have

all

not heard in the

has only heard the story of the

who describe it as superstition have the who have heard from believers? Climacus'

god's appearance from those

same opportunity

as those

account would seem to imply an affirmative answer, but that seems dubious, to say the

weakened hard to see

least.

In any case,

if

the principle of equality

to take into account accidents of time

why

it

and geography,

it

is is

should not be further weakened to take into account

other sorts of "accidents of upbringing."

An

alternative to

altogether.

A

weakening the principle would be to abandon

convinced Calvinist,

for

example,

full

it

of confidence in

God and full of suspicion of our human moral how God should behave, might simply reject the idea

the sovereignty of intuitions about

that people in different ages

and places should have an equal oppor-

tunity to obtain the Truth. Perhaps the selectivity involved in historical faith

is

simply part of God's

one might argue that such

will.

Alternatively, and less Calvinistically,

selectivity

is

a necessary evil, something

Faith

that

God must

accept

if

and History

151

/

he chooses to reveal himself to human beings

historically. Still

another alternative for Climacus, and the one

most appealing,

is

personally find

I

to "save" the principle of equality in

its

strong form

who had no those who have

by an "auxiliary hypothesis" which implies that those opportunity to hear about the incarnation of God, or

had no

fair

opportunity to hear, will nevertheless have an opportunity

to obtain faith.

manner

that

The danger

is

The

trick here

is

to

form such a hypothesis in such a

does not amount to a reversion to the Socratic position.

it

that

if

the Truth

their historical situation,

it

is

available to all people, regardless of

be construed as a Socratic truth which

will

has no essential relation to history. that everyone idea of

God

Truth, then

who

existentially

If,

for

commits

example, one simply said

or other moral ideal available to

we would

most adequate

herself to the

them

thereby in the

is

be back to Socrates.

clearly

There are several possible

auxiliary hypotheses that

might avoid

however. For example, one might hold that those

this fate,

not have an opportunity to encounter the god in this the news of the god's appearance proclaimed to

them

life

who do

will

have

after their death.

People in this situation would be excluded from the Truth during their

temporal existence, but would not be excluded eternally, and their situation

would not seem to

differ

much from

those

who

only heard

about the god at the end of their lives and were thus similarly excluded

from faith

for

Of course

much it

of their lives.

must be acknowledged that the Socratic position may

indeed be the correct one, and tortions

we

recalled,

is

if

that position

is

accepted, the con-

Climacus himself,

are exploring are unnecessary.

not trying to argue that the Socratic view

is

it

will

be

wrong, but

only experimentally attempting to develop an alternative. In view of the difficulties with that alternative,

The answer so,

there

is

surely lies in

no reason

lack the Truth,

then there course, that

is

if

it

is

fair to ask,

bother?"

to bother with the alternative. If

human

If

beings

they are in fact sinful as Climacus' hypothesis assumes,

every reason to bother.

human

sinfulness

is

It

is

part of the hypothesis, of

something that

of the encounter with the god. Therefore, those

encounter, or

"Why

whether human beings possess the Truth.

who have

is

itself

revealed as part

who have not had

the

in offense refused to believe they are sinful,

152

PASSIONATE REASON

/

whole business

will naturally think the

according to Climacus,

is

a waste of time.

a reaction,

completely natural and to be expected but

by no means entails that the alternative hypothesis

IS

Such

is

false.

FAITH INDIFFERENT TO THE QUALITY OF HISTORICAL EVIDENCE?

Let us assume for the

moment

that Climacus' thought-experiment

is

presented in order to illuminate the nature of Christian faith, as

Climacus himself clearly says assumption faith

and

is

at the conclusiori of the book.

When

this

made, Climacus' thoughts on the relationship between

when compared with

historical evidence are quite unusual

most Christian thinkers, and their oddity seems to stem from

a

deep

internal tension.

On

the one hand, Climacus wants to maintain there

difference

is

an

essential

between Christianity and Greek modes of thought, a

differ-

ence which depends on the historical component of Christianity. Either Christianity

is

something essentially different from what Socrates could

have come up with, or because

it

else Christianity does

donym, Johannes de

Silentio.

He

in us,

exist,

"precisely

locates this essential difference ul-

timately in the historical entrance of the alternative to Socratic is

not

has always existed,"" to borrow the words of another pseu-

even

The Truth

in the

immanence

God

requires that

form of a potentiality

into history.

we deny

A

real

that the Truth

for recognizing the Truth.^^

as well as the capacity to recognize the Truth must be

brought to us by a

God who

enters history.

So any attempt

to replace

the Jesus of history with a mythical figure whose real significance

meaning of the narrative or

in the existential

teaching must be rejected.^^ in order to get

"the

The

God

in the

lies

content of the

objectivity of the historical

is

required

outside yourself,"^^ as Climacus says in

Postscript.

This emphasis on history of historical

coming

knowledge

a disciple.

as in

is,

however, coupled with a depreciation

any way necessary or

Climacus seems to make

tually irrelevant to faith:

sufficient for be-

historical

knowledge

vir-

Faith

Even

if

and History

the contemporary generation had not

except these words,

"We

left

153

/

anything behind

have believed that in such and such a year

humble form of a servant, lived and taught this is more than enough. The contemporary generation would have done what is needful, for this little announcement, this world-historical nota hem, is enough to become an occasion for someone who comes later, and the most prolix report can never in all eternity become more for the person who comes the god appeared in the

among

us,

and then died"



later.'^

The unusual nature of Climacus' ideas is now clear. More commonly, who have held that the incarnation was a genuine historical

those

event in something

may

be,

have

like the traditional sense,

also held that

it

who

evidence for that event. Those evidence, but

believe

have tended to reinterpret the incarnation

The

its

question

I

is

wish to pose

more

is

still

as the divine lord,

symbol whose power

is

whether the conjunction of the

essential with the claim that historical

unimportant makes sense.

modify would

as a

objective historicity.

claim that the historical

evidence

we do not have such

wish to affirm a faith in Christ

still

does not rest on

however varied that sense

was important to have good historical

If

not, the question of

be open. Both traditional Christians

liberal Christians still

engaged in the quest

would argue that what must go

is

which

to

as well as those

for the historical Jesus

the cavalier dismissal of historical

evidence. These groups have been suspicious of Kierkegaard for what

Many contemporary

they perceive as his irrationalism.

theologians,

on

the other hand, convinced that making faith dependent

evidence

is

a recipe for disaster,

on

historical

would argue that what must go

is

the

assumption that faith must be grounded in factual historical events. I

believe that Climacus has strong reasons for wishing to avoid both

of these recommendations. cisive,

and indeed whether there

revisions his critics

There

Whether those really a

reasons are ultimately de-

coherent alternative to the

would urge upon him, remains to be determined.

are several reasons

why he

dent on historical evidence.

we examined

is

First,

wishes to avoid making faith depenthere

is

the egalitarian

in the last section. Secondly, there

called the incommensurability

and matters of

between authentic

intellectual evidence. This

is

commitment

what might be

religious

commitment

theme, which

is

more de-

154

PASSIONATE REASON

/

veloped in Postscript than in Fragments, focuses on the character of Christian commitment, which has about

A

person of faith

someone who

is

is

an absoluteness and

it

willing to risk her

The evidence

everything on what she believes.

life

finality.

and stake event

for a historical

can never be more than probable and tentative, subject to revision in light of

new

evidence,

it

findings.

Climacus thinks that

would necessarily share

if

faith

were based on

in this tentativeness.

see faith as a life-transforming passion but does not see

He wants to how such a

passion could be engendered by calculation of evidential probabilities.

On the other hand, Climacus wishes to resist giving up the objective historicity of the incarnation because

the actual historicity of the

it is

incarnation that makes possible a revelation that can confront and

my

correct

indeed this

is

deep-rooted assumptions about

sinful,

and

God and

The

not a possibility to be dismissed in a cavalier way.

makes Christianity what dence." Transcendence as a corrective

is

is

termed in

important here not only for

and challenge

to

my

the secret of Christendom, which

what human

is

incarnation

its

possible value

individual errors and pride, but

human

established social order constantly attempts to deify

Christianity to do

am

I

Postscript a religion of "transcen-

represents as well the foundation of any genuinely

The

myself. If

those deeply rooted assumptions are wrong, then

if

social order. itself;

that

is

merely the attempt to employ

societies always do.

To

foil this

human

attempt at self-deification, epitomized in the Hegelian political philosophy,

we need

lished order

a

God who

can be seen

in

is

its

truly transcendent, so that the estab-

relativity,

and the

dissent be kept open. Despite Kierkegaard's

there that

possibility of critical

political conservatism,

a radical element to his social and political thought, an element

is is

own

tied to transcendence.

we humans

will

manufacture

Without a transcendent God

God

in our

own

image, and

we

in time, will

do

so to buttress the status quo.

Despite these good reasons for holding both to the historicity of the incarnation and the irrelevance of historical evidence, Climacus'

view

is

problematic.

died for

me

as the

Is it

Son

possible to believe that Jesus Christ lived

about the factual character of the extreme, that

evidence at

all,

it

and

of God, and be indifferent to critical questions

my

beliefs?

Suppose, to push things to

could be shown that there was no first-hand

and that overwhelmingly powerful evidence appeared

Fcdth

that the

New

a situation at all,

is

155

/

in the fourth century. In such

would a person not naturally doubt whether Jesus had lived

and a

One

Testament was concocted

and History

fortiori

doubt that he was indeed divine?

could at this point retreat to the view that the object of faith

simply that the god has appeared somewhere, sometime. However,

the content of faith would in that case seem distressingly vague, a

blank canvas that will have

little

power

and overturn our current

to jolt

Socratic ideas. Does such a vague notion really differ Socratic myth?

M.

historical events

is

much from

a

Ferreira puts the point by pointing out that

have identity conditions

refer to them.^^ If

that

].

we want

to say that

the foundation of our faith, but

if

we

are meaningfully to

something occurred in history

how

it

occurred can be

left

to

the historians as unimportant, the question arises as to whether what

occurred can be completely divorced from claims that

we need

at least

how

it

occurred. Ferreira

some information about an event

in order

to identify the event.

Think,

for

example, of Moses. Moses

is

the individual

fronted Pharaoh, led Israel out of Egypt, inscribed the ten

ments, and so on.

Some

but, according to the

or

much of this

information

view of historical reference

I

may be

who concommandinaccurate,

most

find

plausible,

we had no reliable information about Moses whatsoever, then it is hard to see how we could have any true beliefs about Moses, because we could not use the symbol "Moses" successfully to pick out a historical if

figure. In the

same way,

about "Jesus"

as

it

would appear that to speak meaningfully

the historical incarnation of God,

accurate historical information about Jesus.

our information to be historically accurate,

And

we need some

if it is

how can we

important for

avoid a concern

for the quality of the historical evidence?

Climacus' answer to this problem analyzed in chapter

7,

which

lies

in the

Plantinga's sense of the term.^^ Faith

is

is

encounter

not based on evidence.

is

Alvin

grounded in a transforming

encounter with Christ. Historical records function this encounter, but the

view of faith we

sees faith as properly basic, in

itself

as the

occasion for

the ground of faith, which

No amount of historical evidence

is

sufficient

to guarantee that the encounter will occur or that faith will be

outcome, and no specific amount of historical evidence order for the encounter to occur or faith to ensue.

is

its

necessary in

To answer

Ferreira

156

PASSIONATE REASON

/

Climacus must steadfastly maintain that objectivity in the content of one's beliefs

deniable,

I

compatible with subjectivity in the grounds.

is

think, that meaningfully to believe in Jesus as

must have some beliefs

produced

To

as part of the

Why

true,

but

on the

some of my

beliefs

that risk

is

false,

and the person

given.

if

the

mistaken, but

in question

it.

is

not based

or groundless, since

What

Jesus.^"^

which

that this encounter be an experience of Jesus in

in

is

than having

course

unavoidable, and Climacus does not think one should try

grounded in the first-person encounter with

is

Of

basis of the historical record.

Nor does the fact that the belief on evidence mean that the belief is arbitrary to avoid

about

seems possible that a person might believe

it

then they are

beliefs are false,

those

outcome of the encounter?

in the historical record because of her faith in Jesus, rather faith in Jesus

un-

couldn't the beliefs be themselves

refer successfully to Jesus of Nazareth,

Jesus must be

is

God one

why must

true historical beliefs about Jesus. But

be based on evidence?

It

is

true

it is

required

is

knowledge

The situation is analogous to a case of ordinary sense perception I come to believe that there is a flower before me because 1

which

directly perceive the flower. In such a case

I

do not normally regard

the existence of the flower as something that

1

infer or

conclude on

the basis of evidence.

One

objection to Climacus' attempt to rest so

rience of Jesus as necessarily rests

God

on

a host of

to

expe-

background assumptions. Surely a person

cannot simply directly come to perceive Jesus

manding her

much on an

that any interpretation of such an experience

is

do something, or inviting her

as forgiving her,

com-

to faith in the pages of

the gospels without assuming that the gospels are indeed an accurate representation of Jesus and that they provide a reliable means for

becoming aware of Jesus

at

work

sense perception also depends

would not believe there perception

if

I

is

in one's

life.

In a similar way, ordinary

on background

a flower in front of

know

me

is

as a result of

that there

is

a flower in front of

speaking to me,

1

I

my my

So some would argue

me

other things. Similarly, some might argue that to

God

For example,

did not believe that the light was normal, that

eyesight was functioning normally, and so on. that to

beliefs.

must know other things

I

must know these

know

that Jesus as

as well. So, in

both

Fcdth

cases,

may be

it

the evidence

my

argued,

have

I

belief

for these

William Alston has argued that confusion of for a belief

levels.^^

We

is

a flower before

me

is

my

I

To know

need to know such

so. It

that

my

For

belief that

necessary that

it is

eyesight be functioning normally,

not necessary for

have evidence that they are believe them.

is

my

things, but that

me

know

to

these things, or to

sufficient that they are true

belief is

is

properly grounded

may need

know these other may be necessary for

it is

is

God,

not necessary for the

have evidence

individual to

things, or

though that

the individual to

know

them,

for

that

her belief

properly grounded. I

conclude that Climacus' position

There is

and

may

to believe that Jesus reveals himself in certain

ways, and those beliefs have to be true. But

is

I

another matter. In a similar

manner, in order to have a properly grounded belief that Jesus the individual

a

between

for a belief,

justified.

is

to be properly grounded,

the light be of a certain sort, that it

on

rests

should distinguish between having a ground

and knowing that one has a ground

and so on, but

that

beliefs.

kind of objection

this

being justified and knowing that one there

157

/

on other evidence, namely

still rests

background

and History

is

is

philosophically defensible.

nothing incoherent in the notion of a historical belief which

grounded in a transforming experience, rather than

evidence.

Whether

that

is

in fact

how

Christian faith

in historical

is

produced

is

To decide that one must decide whether God and whether experiences of Jesus of the appropriate

another matter, of course. Jesus

is

indeed

sort are possible.

To is

revert to the language of the "thought-experiment," Climacus

probably right in saying that the "scrap of paper" with the words

"we have believed that the god appeared among us" would be "more than enough" to be an occasion

for faith, should the

god choose to

And

use that scrap of paper as an occasion to reveal himself. clearly right in saying that

no amount of evidence

nor necessary for

faith.

Nevertheless,

it is

is

will necessarily

produce faith in someone. So strong, historical evidence sufficient

he

neither

is

difficult to

accept

the further conclusion he seems to draw, namely that evidence

is

irrelevant to faith.

My

worry can be expressed as follows: Certainly

scrap of paper to produce faith. Perhaps

God

could use a

he often does produce

faith in

158

PASSIONATE REASON

/

ways that make evidence irrelevant. But the case?

If

I

have a belief

historical content, beliefs.

and

is

this always or

in Jesus of Nazareth, that

a belief with

cannot be isolated from m.y other historical

it

God produced my belief by overriding my normal thought is hard to see how could regard massive evidence that

Unless

processes,

it

1

Jesus never existed, or never said as utterly irrelevant to

and grounded

my

any of the things attributed to him,

Even

faith.

a belief

in direct perceptual experience

which is

has revealed himself to me,

not the liveness of that

evidence

I

have

is it

is

"properly basic"

subject to being over-

ridden by contrary evidence. Similarly, even though

is

even normally

is

not possible that

I

believe that Jesus

I

am

mistaken, and

by the quality of the

possibility affected

for Jesus' historical reality?

believe that the basic worry Climacus has about admitting the

I

relevance of historical evidence for faith

is

question of faith to be a scholarly question.

who

the ordinary person

is

want the

that he does not

He

does not want to leave

deciding whether to be a Christian or not

in the clutches of the historical scholars, with their endless debates

and never-decided controversies. After

all,

the individual

decide whether or not to become a Christian

how

about

her

life

is

who must

making a decision

should be lived. She does not have the luxury of

waiting for the scholars to reach agreement, which will never happen in

any I

case.

sympathize with Climacus' worry on this point, but

evidence

is

seems to be

historical accounts of Jesus' least,

The

irrelevant for faith.

historical evidence

is

I

believe that

concern can be met without the drastic claim that historical

this

life

actual situation with regard to

this.

For orthodox Christians, the

are regarded as reasonably accurate at

plenty sufficient for faith, and the evidence for this conclusion

regarded as adequate. For others, the account

is

much

accurate,

less

and the evidence accordingly less powerful. In extreme cases, skepticism extends to almost

all

the details of Jesus'

agree that in reality there

is

far

How much more is a matter Now why is it that the evidence

paper."

life.

However,

all parties

would

more evidence than the "scrap of of dispute.

seems adequate to one party and

inadequate to the other? Doubtless each side will have

its

own

explanation. Perhaps skeptics will say that wish fulfillment

preferred

is

at

work

Fdth and History in the believer. Perhaps believers will follow

own experience of Jesus What I wish to maintain

their

159

/

Climacus and say that

the deciding factor.

is

(and here

should be plain that

it

speaking for myself and not Climacus or Kierkegaard)

possible for the believer to say that the encounter with Jesus just as is

am

it

is

decisive,

is

Climacus maintains, without claiming that historical evidence

irrelevant.

That

admit that

if

is,

it

we have

significant that

we

is

as

possible for a believer to claim that

much evidence

did not have evidence of

be possible, while

still

would never be

as

we

some

settle.

type, faith

Though

is

would not is

not in

the evidence by

produce faith in anyone,

sufficient to

it

have, and even to

properly believing that the decision

the end one which scholarship can itself

1

that

is

it is

possible

some

that evidence of a certain type might be necessary for faith for

people, though not everyone, since not everyone will have the reflective

bent or cognitive capacities to appreciate the force of various possible problems.

To

go back to the level distinction we employed

earlier, for

may not be

of a certain reflective bent, being justified in believing

They want

adequate.

know that they are justified, and faith may be troubled by crippling

to

such knowledge, their

more modestly and more

plausibly,

1

think, they at least

out the possibility that their beliefs can be shown to be they

may have

this

false.

Such

admit the relevance of historical argument, while Climacus-inspired view that what

Such

is

they lack

doubts. Or,

need to

false.

rule

Perhaps

is

a believer

still

might

holding to the

finally decisive in settling the

first-hand experience of Jesus.

a person

is

not necessarily thrown back into the clutches of

the scholars, even though he altogether.

if

need because they have encountered people who

claim to be able to show their beliefs are

argument

those

To

may not

ignore the

work of the scholars

avoid the specter of an unending scholarly inquiry which

never leads to commitment either way, he may only need to believe that there

and

it is

is

scholarship. for

enough evidence

hard to see

how

that

to

make the

What the believer holds

one whose

belief has the

truth of his beliefs possible,

weak conclusion could be threatened by is

that the evidence

is

good enough

ground of a first-person encounter, or

perhaps even that the evidence

is

seen in a different light for one

who

has had such an encounter. In the latter case the encounter could be

160

PASSIONATE REASON

/

understood as transforming the individual, giving her the proper per-

which

spective from

view the evidence, or even

to

capacities she needs to appreciate

me

seems to

to

make more

its

sense of the

force.

A

way committed

respond to disturbing historical evidence.

The

as giving

view such

her the

one

as this

believers actually

usual stance

is

not

dis-

missal of the evidence as irrelevant, but confidence that the contrary

evidence will not be decisive.

EVIDENCE FOR A PARADOX: MAKING THE IMPROBABLE PROBABLE Climacus has one further reason insignificant,

which might be

for treating historical

evidence as

called the "capital crime" argument. Just

as a capital offense "absorbs all lesser crimes," so the

paradox icalness

of the incarnation makes minor historical problems insignificant." TTie idea

that the incarnation, being a paradox,

is

appear absurd.

The

so improbable as to

is

such a paradox cannot be

viability of belief in

affected by petty details of the historical records, such as divergencies

and contradictions of various witnesses. low that

it

antecedent probability

Its

is

so

cannot be made meaningfully lower; nor could resolving

such problems make the probability meaningfully higher. Climacus goes so far as to argue that to try to falsify its

character.

one could make

it

ical

attack

on

the incarnation probable

it

An

is

to

by definition the improbable, and it

into

Enquiry Concerning

what

it

is

not.'*^

Hume's famous

strikingly reminiscent of

miracles. In

argues that

is

probable only by making

These arguments are

Hume

make

The paradox

Human

crit-

Understanding

could never be reasonable to believe that a miracle

has occurred, because a miracle, which to the laws of nature,

is

by definition an exception

is

necessarily as improbable

an event

as

can be

imagined, since the laws of nature describe what normally happens and therefore

what one can reasonably expect

and strongest evidence

balance and could never overcome It is

to occur.

for a miracle imaginable

worth inquiring, both

for

Even the

best

would only serve

to

this strong a priori improbability.

Climacus and Hume, what concept

of probability and what assumptions about probability seem to underlie the arguments.

The term

"probability"

is

used in both objective and

and History

Faith

subjective senses. Objectively, to say that an event say that

it is

probable

is

to

Thus the

probability of a certain

are dealt or dice are rolled

can be calculated with

objectively likely to occur.

outcome when cards

is

161

/

We often say that an event

when we know nothing about the objective probabilities of the matter. In these cases we mean that it seems likely to us that the event will occur. For example, I may think it is probable that 1 will receive an exceptionally large raise in salary next year, even though I have no statistical data on which to base such a claim. It is simply rooted in my belief some

that

precision.

my work will

Such a claim

a probability claim

is

it

however, that

if

this

The

on which

beliefs

at first glance to

is

a

it is

based.

be rooted in objective

a miracle improbable. Critics is

Hume's argument, then

shallow understanding of estimated.

it

the infrequency with which laws of nature are

is

which makes

expectancies than

the objective world, and such

no stronger than the

Hume's argument appears violated

my

a statement about

statistical frequencies in

probability, since

probable, however,

be recognized and rewarded by the proper authorities.

more

is

statement about

is

how

have pointed

seems to

it

rest

out,

on

the probability of historical events

a is

probability of a historical event cannot be estimated

simply from the frequency with which an event of that type occurs, since history

may invade

is

replete with unique types of events.

Russia only once in

probability of

an event, we

all

human

French emperor

not only on the frequency of

rely therefore

the type of event in question but

A

history. In estimating the

on our total knowledge of the

situation,

including our knowledge of the intentions and characters of whatever historical agents are involved.

To

think otherwise

is

to confuse history

with dice-rolling or coin-tossing. Believers in miracles regard miracles as the

regarded as a personal agent. therefore,

To

work of God, who

one must do more than consider how frequently they occur.

One must consider whether there is a God, whether he being who could be expected to do miracles from time to

is

in a personal

God, and believe that God has the

and that he

is

a being

who

If

I

what

believe

ability to intervene

has good reasons to intervene

in nature in certain circumstances, then

of a miracle in those circumstances

the sort of

time, in

circumstances this could be expected to occur, and so on.

in nature,

is

assess the probability of a miracle,

I

will estimate the probability

much more

highly than does

Hume.

162

PASSIONATE REASON

/

Anyone who

bases the judgment not merely

on

objective statistical data, but

variety of beliefs about other matters.

who

or others

Hume,

judges miracles extremely improbable, as does

Of course

possible that

it is

on

judge miracles extremely improbable have objectively

powerful evidence that

God

does not

exist, or that

God

not the kind

is

of being

who

Hume

actually simply expressing his beliefs about these matters,

is

performs miracles, but

the judgment of probability It

seems or appears

course miracles

who

a

Hume

likely to

made

likely to

me

that

and

therefore of the subjective kind.

is

Hume

may not appear

seems more

it

that miracles do not occur, but of

someone

nearly so improbable to

Anyone who

holds different convictions about God.

else

actually

believes that a miracle has occurred will of course believe that the

objective probability of that miracle I

is

1.

believe that the concept of probability that underlies Climacus'

argument

also subjective.

is

Climacus says that the believer must firmly

hold to the notion that the incarnation

is

a paradox

and

therefore

is

improbable. However, since the believer thinks the incarnation has actually occurred,

the event

occurred

is

is

1

he cannot believe that the objective probability of

low, since the objective probability of an event that has .

The meaning must be

that the believer understands the

event as one that will appear improbable to someone beliefs.

For example, someone such as

Hume, who

who

holds certain

believes that mi-

make

raculous events are in general improbable, will certainly

the same

judgment about the idea of a divine incarnation. Anyone who

is

inclined to think that only events that can be rationally understood

can occur, and who

human

also

cannot understand how

being, will think the event improbable.

God

could become a

Anyone who

is

inclined

to believe that genuinely unselfish love does not exist will find the

idea of

God

suffering

on behalf of human beings

similarly improbable.

All of this implies that the improbability of the incarnation must be

seen as relative to the perspective from which

This corresponds perfectly with our paradoxicalness of the paradox the "infinite If,

is

itself

it

earlier

it

is

which

God and human

however, the improbability of the paradox

which

viewed.

a function of sin,

qualitative distance between

subjective perspective from

is

contention that the

viewed,

viewing the paradox as probable wrong-headed,

creates

beings.

'"^^

a function of the

is

why as

is

the idea of

Climacus plainly

and History

Foith

says?

Why

is

human

that the perspective of sinful

it

believer assert that

B

in the fact that the

lies

in fact sinners.

human

the perspective that every

And

shouldn't the

probable to her?

it is

The answer surely that human beings are

beings gains a

Why

kind of authority here as the defining perspective?

163

/

The

hypothesis assumes

perspective of sin

being occupies, at

since the transition from sin to faith

is

in fact

least prior to faith.

not, for Climacus, a one-

is

time event, but a transition that must continually be renewed,

it

remains

necessary for the believer to define the content of her faith polemically,

which

necessarily

beings.

The

as that

human person

who

of offense.

in opposition to the thinking of sinful

is

believer

is

not offended but the believer

provocative character and no longer confronts

If faith loses its

our natural patterns of thinking as a rebuke, altered

for her

character. Nevertheless, there

its

carnation

is

no longer improbable

knows

has indeed essentially

it

a sense in

is

which the

to the believer, simply because

something that has occurred.

that she

the

is

has confronted and continues to confront the possibility

It is

init is

improbable only in the sense

appears unlikely or improbable to our sinfully cor-

it

The event remains improbable

rupted patterns of thought.

in that

it

was not something we expected to occur.

Does the subjective improbability of the paradox imply that the quality of the historical evidence

is

no concern?

It

him

the unbeliever, since the event will appear to

improbable.

Whether this

effects of sin are

that evidence

is

on the

of

is

so depends

intellect.

might appear so

to be massively

on how pervasive the corrupting

However,

no value whatsoever

believe that the claim

I

to the unbeliever

implied by the requirements of hypothesis B, though

Climacus would admit

this.

The

for

is

not

I

doubt that

strictly

hypothesis requires that people be

construed as sinful enough that they cannot arrive at the Truth apart

from an encounter with the god in which they receive the condition. It is

not obvious to

me

that

one aspect of

this process of giving the

condition could not consist in giving the individual evidence that the

god-man It is

is

indeed the god.

true that the giving of the condition

is

made

possible by a

life-

changing relationship in which the individual becomes a disciple of the god.

Coming

to

know

the god and becoming his disciple

reducible to a process of obtaining evidence.

If

I

is

hardly

meet a person, even

164

PASSIONATE REASON

/

an ordinary person, and come to know that person, the relationship formed

far richer

is

However,

this

by no means implies that one could never gain evidence

for one's beliefs

to

know

than the notion of accumulating evidence allows.

about another person through the process of coming

same

that person, and the

know

the case of coming to

Of course

possibility

may give him

the individual's sinfulness

any evidence provided, because the

to dismiss

so improbable. But

it

would appear

a strong tendency

beliefs in question

appear

seems possible that strong evidence might chal-

we

lenge this presumption of improbability. So long as

are careful to

the evidence alone could not produce faith in the individual,

insist that it

to hold in

the god.

seems compatible with the B hypothesis to

assert that

which

play a positive role in the process in

evidence might

comes into being

faith

within the individual.

seems possible for evidence to have some value to the

also

It

view to the contrary

believer. Climacus'

that the faith

which

god does not

rest

faith it

is

surely rooted in his claim

is

the result of the first-person encounter with the

is

on evidence

in

any form.

He

This

is

essentially the

section and

Perhaps

it

is is

same argument we examined

subject to the true that

it

is

same reservations that

such a

human

being.

I

in the previous

expressed there.

the experience of meeting Jesus that

decisive in altering the natural judgment that a

if

not be troubled by flaws in the historical record.

will surely

faith,

thinks that

sufficient to overturn the subjective improbability of the event,

God would

Thus the experience may be the

decisive ground of

and the inconclusiveness of scholarly debate may be

to the believer.

However,

this

is

insignificant

compatible with claiming that

important that there be evidence, at troubled by doubts of a certain kind.

least for

is

not become

it

some people who

is

are

The evidence may not be of such it may be the kind of evidence

a nature as to convince unbelievers, but that

is

recognized as sufficient

After

all,

it

is

experience of Jesus which

some reasons

is

seen through the right eyes.

someone

the ground of faith

to doubt is

whether the

veridical. If

to think that Jesus really existed, really

certain character,

is

we have

divine, has a

and so on, such information could be helpful

resolving such doubts. to be

when

surely possible for

Mother Teresa,

If I

I

in

have an experience of someone who appears

will be

much more

likely to believe the expe-

and History

Foith

rience

of I

veridical

is

if I

/

have background information about the reaUty

Mother Teresa and about her

own claims to be divine,

is

may

but they

process by

divine, including the miracles, Jesus'

and perhaps not necessary

faith,

They

are not

many

people,

faith

call the

normal

confirming faith that

for

what one might

well be for others part of

which

in the

the profundity of Jesus' teaching, and especially

the resurrection, could be of significance to a believer.

produce

if

traditional arguments

and the testimony provided

for the reliability of the gospels,

gospels for the claim that Jesus

would be the case

character, than

had never heard of Mother Teresa. Thus the

sufficient to

165

comes into being. They may

also

have value

in

present and helping to relieve doubts and allay

is

various objections.

There

is

doubt,

little

think, that the claims

1

strongly contrary to the intentions of Climacus,

no value

in traditional apologetics.

treatment of what

his presence

is

no value

of

run

simply can see

instructive to look at Climacus'

known

some way,

for the sake of

who

to the person

Climacus admits

in the world in

"accommodation

says that every

hensibility"

It is

traditionally cited as evidence.

make

that the god must

though he

is

am making

1

who

compre-

does not receive the

him Ithe godl only under constraint and against his will.""*^ I do not see why this should be so. As Climacus himself says, it surely makes no sense to suppose that condition, and

therefore "elicited from

is

human being and Of course the gospels meet this requirement in the case of Jesus by presenting him as an authoritative teacher, as a worker of miracles, and as someone who the god

is

that there

literally indistinguishable

is

no

sign

which points

himself claims to be divine. this requires

see

why

some

If

from any other

to his divinity.

the god wills to reveal himself, and

sign or evidence of his divinity, then

is

if

hard to

the god should grant such signs only "under constraint and

against his will." will only

Even

if

we

grant Climacus the claim that such signs

be of value to people of

question that claim, for those people

it

faith,

though

I

have given reason to

does not follow that the signs are insignificant

who do

indeed have

faith.

Climacus says that miracles cannot help much, "the wonder" as the Hongs

strictly translate)

but

It

"is

it

only for

faith.'"*^

is

not clear

as a miracle (or

does not exist immediately,

just

what

this

means.

The

statement could be read as saying that an event becomes a miracle by

166

my

/

belief that

PASSIONATE REASON it is.

However,

this

claim

is

absurd on

its

and in

face,

any case directly contradicts a principle Climacus firmly holds, namely that the apprehension of something cannot alter the nature of apprehended.'^^

If

he means that miracles

will

what

is

only be believed by those

who have faith, this is possible, though not obvious, but that does not mean that the miracles lack evidential value for those who do possess faith.

Surely Climacus

is

right

when he

says that miracles

and other

evidence do not lead automatically to faith and that they can indeed lead to offense. Jesus observed in fact

If

the gospels are accurate,

him perform

many seem

to

many contemporaries

of

miracles without becoming disciples, and

have been offended by him. However,

not imply that the miracles are of no value to those people possess faith. Certainly, the traditional Christian view

is

Jesus did are valuable in this way. For example, Peter's

this does

who

did

that the "signs" first

sermon on

the day of Pentecost appeals to the "mighty works, signs and wonders"

which God had done among the people through tell,

Jesus."^"^

So

far as

I

can

Climacus' deviation from this traditional Christian view and

complete denigration of historical evidence the basic correctness of his individual.

One can

own view

is

unwarranted, even given

of faith and

its

genesis in the

of course resort to the claim that Climacus

is

not

own imaginative construcby his own repeated confessions

trying to present Christianity, but only his tion, but this claim appears strained

of plagiarism and by his explicit mention of Christianity at the end of

the book. His imaginative proposal

clearly intended to illuminate

is

the logical situation of Christian faith.

CLIMACUS CONFESSES:

IS

HIS EXPERIMENT

CHRISTIANITY? At

the conclusion of chapter

benefit of any reader obtuse logical

and conceptual

issues

5,

Climacus plainly

enough

to

have

he has discussed

tips his

hand

for the

failed to see that the

are offered for their value

in helping the reader understand the nature of Christian faith

relations to various philosophical views. After a few

more barbs

and

its

at the

Christendom which wants to "naturalize" Christianity by celebrating

Faith

its

and History

167

/

"triumph," a triumph that amounts to the transformation of Chris-

tianity into

and a concluding defense of the AristoteUan

opposite,

its

principle of noncontradiction, the only defense against the confusion

of the Christian with what

Climacus

tells

what he

is

is

logically incompatible

All the borrowing and allusions to the

New

Christian writers has been intentional, and

if

Testament and other Climacus ever writes a

continuation, he intends to "call the matter by clothe the issue in

its

historical costume. '"^^

difficult to determine, since "as

phenomenon

historical

with Christianity,

about as plainly as an ironical humorist can.

is

well

its

What

known, Christianity

—has wanted

name and is

not

the only

is

— indeed,

that despite the historical

by means of the historical

proper

that will be

precisely

to be the single individual's

point of departure for his eternal consciousness....'"^^

comment

Climacus, in a

that recalls the "proofs" of his hypothesis

end of the

offered to the interlocutor at the

that Christianity

is

unique in

two chapters,

first

says

linking of the individual's eternal

its

happiness with history. Christianity

is

thus distinguished from philos-

ophy, which presents us with ideas for contemplation, from mythology,

which presents

us with imaginative stories,

which presents

us with facts to be

understood as a

human

and from ordinary

history,

remembered. Christianity cannot be

creation;

it

has not "arisen in any

human

heart."^^

Climacus even trick.

We

tips us off as to

have already seen in

one possible reason

his discussion of faith

for his literary

and history a

concern that Christianity, which presents the individual with a decision concerning his or her existence, not become the province of scholars.

One can

easily

imagine a discussion of the issues that Climacus himself

wants to consider, such

as the

nature of faith and

its

relation to history

and to reason, and the difference between Christianity and idealism,

becoming bogged down and philosopher

Y have

in a scholarly discussion of said about the issues.

what theologian

However,

X

"if in discussing

we begin by narrating not finish, but manage to

the relation between Christianity and philosophy

what was

said earlier,

how

begin, for history just keeps

shall

we

ever,

on growing. '"^^

Climacus' admittedly whimsical device of converting the content of Christianity into a "thought-experiment" allows this

him

to cut through

long-winded discussion and go straight to the logical heart of the

168

issues.

PASSIONATE REASON

/

His high-handedness does, however, leave him open to a possible

objection, one that

some

critics

have been

concerning

swift to raise,

the relation between his thought-experiment and Christianity. Does the thought-experiment really accurately represent Christianity?

does this not in

its

call into

If

not,

question whether the experiment can succeed

puipose of illuminating Christianity?

Once

this question

is

asked,

do we not need a scholarly inquiry into the essence of Christianity? so,

Climacus has not missed the clutches of the scholars

If

after all.

Thus, some writers have objected that Climacus' version of Christianity

is

incomplete, since he says nothing about the resurrection of

Jesus or eschatological issues. This kind of objection seems wrong-

headed

He

is

to

me,

for

it

on

rests

a misunderstanding of Climacus' game.

not trying accurately to represent Christian theology, but only

presenting us with a thought-experiment. Admittedly, the experiment

borrows heavily from Christian teachings and Christian teachings, but tion" to

would be absurd

it

embody the whole

is

presented to illuminate

to expect such

an "inven-

of Christian theology. All he needs to

include in his thought-experiment are some features that are adequate logically to delineate Christianity is

therefore

no

objection.

shown

project could be tianity, It

to

It

from

would be

its

neighbors. Incompleteness

a different matter

if

Climacus'

embody something incompatible with

does seem then that to make a judgment on the thought-

experiment one must have some views on what Christianity this

Chris-

however.

does

mean

is,

and

that Climacus cannot totally escape the conclusions of

scholarship. This does not

mean that Climacus will get into a scholarly The genius of his project is that it allows

quarrel with anyone, however.

him

to abstract features of Christianity that are so logically basic that

they are very difficult to deny. Essentially, he assumes that there something distinctive about Christianity

thought, and he

tries to

fact that Christianity

argue that this distinctiveness

is

is

when compared with pagan is

linked to the

rooted in a divine revelation rather than

philosophical speculation, and to the fact that Christianity presents Jesus as a divine savior

and not

just a philosophical sage.

disagrees with these assumptions,

that Christianity

is

Anyone who

anyone whose scholarship implies

not essentially different from Greek thought and

that Christianity does not present Jesus as divine and as the vehicle

Fdth and History

for

God's revelation to humans, has a

It is

hard to see

how one

169

/

difficult task, historically speaking.

could claim that such a view

is

what has

historically

been termed Christianity, though one could perhaps argue

that this

what Christianity should become.

is

tician like

A

humorist and dialec-

Climacus will not get into the thicket of historical scholarship

to argue with such a person, but

Climacus stands ready to point out

that this "advance" for Christianity, this "going further," looks suspiciously like a return to Socrates

and Greek modes of thought.

CHAPTER

10 CHRISTIANITY IN THE

CONTEMPORARY WORLD

Climacus ends his book with a "moral," and we would do well to ponder it

in

drawing our

own

conclusions about the book.

The moral

two straightforward claims and a barbed indictment. The is

claim

that the projected hypothesis "indisputably goes further than the

Socratic." is

contains

first

The second claim

is

that the question whether the hypothesis

than the Socratic view "cannot be decided in the same breath."

truer

This second claim makes

it

clear that the first claim

the hypothesis manages to clearly differentiate view, not that

way.

it

One cannot

is

itself

means only

that

from the Socratic

necessarily truer or cognitively superior in

some

decide the truth question without deciding what one

new organ: new presupposition: the consciousness of sin, a new decision: the moment, and a new teacher: the god in time."^ The barb is thrown, not at the Socratic view per se, but at those contemporary representatives who were attempting to pass the Socratic perspective off as Christianity: "But to go further than Socrates, when thinks about the essential components of the hypothesis: "a

faith,

and

one yet

a

says essentially the

that, at least, it

may

is

same thing

as he,

only not nearly so well,

not Socratic."^ Christianity may be true or

well be something that

we

will

want

to reject,

and

false,

but intellectual

honesty and integrity require that one not convert Christianity into

something with which is

it is

logically incompatible. This

hurled not only against the Hegelians,

with

human

society

who wished

and who saw the Truth

discovery of our identity with the divine.

It is

is

a barb that

to identify

in terms of our

directed against

God own

all

the

nineteenth-century theologies that in one way or another eliminate

Christianity in the

Contemporary World

171

/

from their versions of Christianity those elements that logically entiate

it

from pagan thought:

faith, sin-consciousness, the

differ-

moment,

and most importantly, the incarnation.

THE IMPLICATIONS OF CLIMACUS' EXPERIMENT FOR CONTEMPORARY THEOLOGY In chapter 3

we noted

in passing that

shown how pertinent Climacus' century theologians.^

A careful

Robert Roberts has

attack here

is

brilliantly

against certain twentieth-

look at such theologians as John

and Rudolf Bultmann reveal that

in their

thought Jesus

is

Cobb

reduced in

the final analysis to the status of Socratic teacher. Cobb, for example, construes the significance of Jesus in the following terms: Understanding

God

himself as the source of the creative transformation of the world,

and salvation

as a creative

human being,

transformation in which the individual

Cobb says that Jesus, more than any other identified his own will with this source of creative novelty

becomes open

to growth,

and thereby makes possible

salvation.'*

For this reason Jesus

is

"the

incarnation of the Logos in the fullest meaningful sense."^ It

appears from this that Jesus

is

However, a closer look reveals that is

thereby given a unique status.

this uniqueness,

if

present at

all,

only quantitative and not qualitative. Jesus simply had a greater

degree of a quality that many, even

all,

people can possess. Even Jesus

did not always perfectly manifest this identification of his will v/ith the

source of creative novelty, and

it is

possible that there are others

who

manifested the same quality: "There might be someone of whom history has

left

no record who was constituted much

idle speculation."^ It

is

clear

from

the individual to receive the truth;

Climacus' sense, and there could be

as Jesus was,

this that Jesus

is

but that

is

not essential for

humans beings are not in error in many "Socratic" teachers who can

help the individual transform himself, even

if

Jesus turns out to be the

most effective one.

An

even more interesting

case, in

some ways,

Bultmann. Bultmann understands salvation past in such a

way

that

as

is

that of Rudolf

being freed from the

one can face the future with openness

responsible chooser. Instead of having an identity that

is

as a

fixed by past

172

PASSIONATE REASON

/

and circumstances, the saved person

decisions, possessions,

open

to hold that this radical openness to the future is

made

a condition

which Jesus.

Roberts shows very convincingly,^ Bultmann gives no

as

credible account of story that

is

an encounter with the good news about

possible only by

However,

totally

is

Bultmann, who has doubtless read Climacus, wants

to possibility.

makes

why

it is

that the story of Jesus should be the only

possible this state of radical openness to the future.

Salvation as radical openness to the future has the strong ring of a "Socratic" truth, and there seems

no plausible reason why other teachers

than Jesus should not help the individual to "recollect" such a

however much Bultmann may deny that

this

is

so.

of salvation, or the Truth in Climacean language,

On it

truth,

such construals

cannot plausibly

be argued that the attainment of salvation depends on a relationship

with the historical

Nor can

Jesus,

understood

as

uniquely God.

be argued plausibly that Climacus has misrepresented

it

the character of Christianity on these essential points; that

is,

that

faith or the incarnation are not really that significant to Christianity.

The evidence all

for this

is

the way

Cobb and Bultmann, who

are after

professed Christians, twist and turn to try to maintain the uniqueness

of Christ and the essential character of a relationship to Christ.

The

theologians themselves testify to the correctness of Climacus' claims

on these points by

desperately, albeit unsuccessfully, trying to

criteria for differentiating Christian

recognition and the attempt,

would surely be that tianity plausible to

of offense that

claims to rest historical

it

on

is

his

the failure?

The answer

of Climacus

due to a misguided attempt to make Chris-

"cultured despisers" and eliminate the possibility

part

is

human

its

why

meet

from pagan thought. Given the

and parcel of authentic Christianity, with

its

God

in

a revelation that

comes

in the person of

flesh.

Other theologians, most notably John Hick, Maurice Wiles, Michael Goulder, and Dennis Nineham,^ and more recently,

Thomas

Sheehan,*^

have forthrightly conceded that traditional Christianity should be jettisoned and that the doctrine of the incarnation should be discarded as a

myth. They are candid in admitting that

this belief

does indeed

offend them. That Christianity should be uniquely and authoritatively true,

resting

on

cannot swallow.

a

savior

who

is

uniquely God,

is

something they

^

Christianity in the

Contemporary World

However, even these theologians, paradoxically,

That

to appeal to the authority of Jesus.

in

173

/

some way wish

they do not simply straight-

is,

forwardly argue for whatever Socratic truth they have latched onto,

but try to show that the truth as they see

it

can be derived from

Jesus'

teachings. Sheehan, for example, claims that Jesus himself taught that

God must

not be thought of as a reality out there, but

present in

human

and

is

experience and community;

God

is

as a reality

"God-with-us"

present in the quest for justice and mercy. This presence of

God

constitutes the beginning of God's kingdom.

The

Father was not to be found in a distant heaven but was entirely

men and women. Jesus' doctrine of the kingdom meant that God had become incarnate: He had poured himself out, had disappeared into mankind and could be found nowhere else but there.... Henceforth and forever God was present only in and as one's neighbor."-^ identified with the cause of

Such

a teaching

presupposing that

clearly "Socratic" in Climacus' sense. Far

is

human

this

teaching implies that

The

interesting question

of this truth,

is it

to Jesus. If Jesus

authority?

If

from

beings are in error and require a divine savior,

human beings at bottom do possess is

the Truth.

why, given the evidently Socratic nature

so important to

Sheehan

to trace this teaching

back

was not the God-man, why does he possess any special

the answer

is

that Jesus' authority derives from the truth

and profundity of the teaching, then analysis the teaching stands

on

its

it

own

is

evident that in the final

Socratic feet, and

it

does not

matter what the historical Jesus taught. Nevertheless, writers such as

Sheehan seem anxious

and argue

to trace their views back to Jesus,

that traditional Christianity

is

somehow

a distortion of his original

message. Sheehan argues that the distortion began with Peter himself,

who

tried to

hold on to the person of Jesus instead of Jesus' message.^

A similar pattern can be seen of

God

Incarnate.

One

in several of the authors in

of the authors of this work argues, for example,

that Jesus' original message was altered to include a savior by the Samaritan church.

matter what Jesus taught?" once

But one may well it is

God

myth ask,

of a divine

"Why

does

it

conceded that Jesus was not divine

and did not teach with divine authority? was

The Myth

If

a person thinks that Jesus

incarnate and that our relation to

him

will

determine our

174

PASSIONATE REASON

/

eternal destiny, then

it

would make some sense

historical scholarship in determining exactly

Jesus

is

for that person to follow

what

Jesus taught, since

recognized by that individual as having divine authority (though

Climacus would caution us that a living relationship with Jesus

moment Jesus

is

within

the basis of faith, not historical scholarship).

is

If,

however,

who points us to a truth that is potentially embedded each of us, why must we cling desperately to his authority? Such a teacher

a view sounds once

more

like a case of "saying the

same thing

Socrates, only not nearly so well," not nearly so well because said

is

in the

as

what

is

burdened with deep conceptual confusion.

In a very interesting "Epilogue" to The

Myth

of

God

Incarnate,

Dennis Nineham sees this problem and clearly voices it. How is it, Nineham asks, that his fellow theologians can deny Jesus' divinity but then go on to make extravagant claims about Jesus as a human being? If

we deny the

inspired authority of the

the historical-critical method, can

man whose concern was

perfect, a

we

New

Testament and

centered totally upon God, and so on?

was morally

really say that Jesus

totally for others, a

At

on

rely

man whose

best such claims

life

would seem

to be consistent with the historical record, but not really historically justified.^

^

In a brief response,

Don

Cupitt accepts the force of this warning

and draws the consequences consistently.

I

acknowledge the limitations of our

critical-historical

of Jesus. However, the core of a religion does not

lie

knowledge

in the biography

or personality of the founder, but in the specifically religious values to which, according to the tradition, I

he bore witness. By these values

mean possible determinations of the human

itself to

spirit

whereby

it

relates

the ultimate goal of existence...''*

Cupitt here straightforwardly acknowledges that the Christianity he putting forward

on

is

a Socratic view. In effect,

Jesus' authority for his position

is

he

is

is

admitting that relying

a mistake, a kind of

hang-over of

old ways of thinking.

One may

well think that this point

a question of how a

word

be permitted their

own

if

modem

is

is

unimportant.

to be used, and shouldn't

sense of "Christianity?"

Isn't

it

merely

modem theologians

Of

course.

However,

theologians are interested in contributing to clarity and

Christianity in the

Contemporary World

how

responsible thought, they will be careful in are millions of Christians today

who

175

/

they use words. There

continue to use "Christianity" to

designate a faith that implies that Jesus was uniquely God's son, a faith

on an

that rests anity

which

authoritative, historical revelation, a view of Christi-

makes

clearly

Such

the Truth.

a

main body of Christian onward.

It

is

logically exclude Socratic perspectives

believers from the time of the

intolerable to

is

that logically exclude

a view that

it

if

modem

to believe in

theologians call

tional Christianity

may be

true or false, but

faith

something is

hardly

one thing

else,

and

obscured. Tradiis

certainly true,

and pagan thought

that traditional Christianity

is

what has heretofore been

have to term their

their relation to the tradition they are continuing

is

Testament

really Socratic "Christianity," the cause of clarity

called "Christianity" will

and that

New

have the same word designate positions

one another. Hence

Those who continue

served.

on

conception of Christianity has characterized the

are genuinely

different.

The message tied, as

it

of Climacus

organ: faith, and a decision: the is

is

therefore that Christian faith today

has always been, to a particular cluster of concepts: "a

new

presupposition: the consciousness of sin, a

moment, and a new

not denying,

I

is

new new

teacher: the god in time."^^ Climacus

think, that there

is

room

for doctrinal

and new understanding of Christian teachings, but he

is

development claiming that

there are certain features that are essential to distinguish Christianity

from pagan thought, ancient and contemporary. Genuine Christian thought

rests

on the assumption

their salvation

that

human

beings are sinful and that

depends on a revelation to them by God, a revelation

that must be accepted in faith and cannot be regarded as something to be transcended or surmounted.

own

entrance into

by which

God

human

history,

it

is

is

heart of this revelation

is

God's

an event which becomes the means

enters the personal history of individuals in every age,

making a moment of decision both of faith

The

not one that can be

possible

and necessary. The response

justified before a neutral, rational tribunal;

rather one that necessarily goes against our existing assumptions

about what

is

probable and which can only be believed

when

individual, including the individual's past ways of thinking,

formed by the encounter with the incarnate God.

is

the

trans-

176

PASSIONATE REASON

/

COMMITMENT: A RETREAT OR AN ADVANCE? Many

thinkers would agree with Climacus that a Christianity that

tied to

God

necessarily conflicts with reason, though they

the sociological critique of "reason" that

Climacus' analysis. For thinkers such

I

may not

have argued

as this,

Christianity through an act of commitment that

They

is

an authoritative revelation which revolves around an incarnate agree with implicit in

is

one can only embrace is

necessarily irrational.

work

see Climacus, or rather Kierkegaard, since Climacus'

understood as part and parcel of Kierkegaard's

own

is

perspective, as

recommending

a repudiation of reason and a "retreat to

Kierkegaard

here seen as tremendously significant, since he exem-

plifies

is

and in many ways

become pervasive

is

commitment."

the fountainhead for a strategy that has

in the twentieth century.

This retreat to commitment Rather, Kierkegaard

is

is

not a blind embrace of irrational ism.

seen as giving a kind of argument for the rea-

sonableness of irrational commitment. Kierkegaard saw through the

bankruptcy of the Enlightenment project of giving a rational

justifi-

cation for our ultimate life-choices, be those choices ethical or religious.

Since no choice of this nature can be rationally that any choice

and

for herself,

is

as justified as

this act of

justified,

follows

it

any other. Each individual must choose

choice will then serve as a "foundation" for

a substitute for the rational foundation the Enlightenment sought

life,

in vain.

Alasdair Maclntyre calls this the doctrine of "radical choice" and claims that

it is

exemplified in Either/Or, where the reader

with a choice between an aesthetic and an ethical objective

way of deciding between them.'^ W. W.

is

presented

with no

lifestyle,

Bartley also credits

Kierkegaard with being the originator of this strategy, and he specifically

mentions the Johannes Climacus

literature as

among

Kierkegaard maintains, says Bartley, "that the correctness of or

way of

life

can never be proved.

infinite regress of proving; essary.

To

Any

its

sources.

any system

attempt to do so generates an

and thus a dogmatic presupposition

adopt any particular

way of life one

has to

make an

is

nec-

irrational

choice of some 'absolute presupposition' or revelation."'^ Bartley

calls

Christianity in the

Contemporary World

argument the "tu quoque argument" and regards

this

Terence Penelhum,

on Kierkegaard that

one

seem

to

as the inspiration

it

contemporary forms of irrationaUsm.

for a host of

care than

111

/

that

in

God and

much greater who freely attributes views to Kierkegaard

very similar, though developed with

is

finds in Bartley,

have

develops a perspective

Skepticism

textual basis.

little

Penelhum

sees Kierkegaard, along

with Pascal, as accepting what Penelhum terms the parity argument. In Philosophical Fragments, he says, Kierkegaard uses the arguments of

ancient skeptics to try to show that

all

our intellectual commitments

regarding matters of fact are rationally unjustified and depend

which

an act of the

is

the will

human

is

made

With

on

faith,

regard to Christian faith, this act of

possible by divine assistance

and

is

not within our

powers. Nevertheless, the analogy between ordinary beliefs and

religious faith

no

will.

is

strong

enough

to

show

that the religious believer needs

rational justification for faith, since she does only

what

all

human

beings do with respect to other matters.

Now

it

is

certainly the case that Kierkegaard's writings, including

the Climacus books, do attempt to reason.

The claim

show the

limitations of

human

to think without assumptions or presuppositions, or

to attain a final, systematic understanding of matters of fact flies in the

face of

human

and

finitude

historicity.

The

Interlude in Philosophical

Fragments does indeed emphasize the role of the will in the formation of

human

belief.

However,

pletely misunderstand

that Kierkegaard

is

what

critics is

such as Bartley nevertheless com-

going on in these

texts.

They assume

worried, as they are, about whether Christianity

can be shown to be reasonable, and they therefore read him to

show

that Christianity

Such point)

is

a

is

as reasonable as

as trying

any other view.

view misses what Kierkegaard (and Climacus too on

all

about.

reasonable or that

He

it is

when

is

no more unreasonable than any other commit-

ment. Rather he wants to show that Christianity unreasonable,

this

does not wish to show that Christianity

is

most definitely

analyzed from the perspective of a person

lacks faith or "the condition."

The

Fragments are not directed at skeptical opponents of Christianity, are regarded as doing Christianity a service by

offense evident. Rather, the target

who

skeptical arguments in Philosophical

is

who

making the nature of

apologists for Christianity, those

178

PASSIONATE REASON

/

who would make

Christianity reasonable by showing

speculatively reinterpreting

For Climacus irrational it

it

not the case that Christianity

is

than anything

else." It

is

the possibility of offense. Given

fulness of

human

be the height of

human faith

its

thinking,

it

irrationality.

probability or

character.

its

"no more

is

the paradox, and embodies within insulting claims about the sin-

its

will necessarily appear, in

The arguments about

one

sense, to

the limitations of

reason are not intended to show "parity" between Christian

and other commitments, and are not intended

response to

critics.

who

rationalistic defenders of faith, defenders

prostitute

The

what they

Human

I

reason

are seen as

being

pimps who

made by Climacus

should term the perspectival nature of is

"you too"

are trying to save.

really decisive epistemological point

concerns what

as a

Rather, they are an attempt to burst the bubble of

human

reason.

not a neutral arbiter of religious truth, but always

expresses the character of the reasoner. Reason

is

passionate;

it

embodies

either the imperialistic urge to dominate that leads to offense or the

humble recognition of my drawn from

this point

is

commitments

limits that leads to faith.

to be

not that one may commit oneself to anything, are equally irrational, but that reflection

since

all

faith

ought to be sensitive to

Christian faith objectionable

on

thing about Christian faith, but Specifically,

The moral

its

own engaged

character. If

rational grounds, that

may

it

Climacus challenges

me

also imply

to reflect

I

may imply some-

something about me.

on whether or not my

objections are an expression of the jolt which Christianity offers to

need to be autonomous and in control of

man"

find the idea of

my

my

world. Does "postmodern

an authoritative, divine revelation intolerable

because we have made some profound intellectual discovery? Christianity

on

find

seem unpalatable because

it flies

in the face of

Or does

what

post-

Enlightenment people want to think about themselves, and, according to Climacus,

what human beings

in every age

have wanted to think

about themselves?

Nor should we implies that offense

forget that the perspectival character of reason is

not the only option for a thinking person. As we

have interpreted Climacus,

embracement of

become

faith in Christ

a logical contradiction.

a follower of Jesus

which

is

made

is

It is

not a blind leap, nor an rather a

possible by

commitment

to

an encounter with

Contemporary World

Christianity in the

179

/

Jesus that transforms the individual, including the individual's thinking patterns.

Climacus does not see

dence, though

have argued that he

really

ought to allow

something

sees belief in Jesus as

transformation and the belief that

What

is

needed

is

for faith

part of is

its

grasp the truth.

Thus Kierkegaard responds

outcome

tique of faith by a critique of Enlightenment thinking

me

the ability to

itself,

realistic

cri-

but he does

concept of truth.

that this description of the encounter begs

the interesting questions. is

are thereby

AND TRUTH

SUBJECTIVITY may respond

that the

Enlightenment

to the

not thereby in postmodernist fashion jettison a

critic

mean

not an arbitrary commitment,

but an encounter with a living reality that can give

A

for the pos-

like a basic belief, a belief that the

transformation makes possible. That, however, does not

groundless.

evi-

evidence might play a positive role in the process. Rather

sibility that

he

I

grounded in

this transformation as

How

indeed an encounter with

does Climacus

God and

know

all

that the encounter

that the transformation

is

one

that brings the individual into the Truth, or the Truth into the individual?

As

a question to Climacus, this query

does not claim to be a Christian.

We

is

misdirected, since he

can, however, understand the

question as a query to the believer, with Climacus as the believer's designated spokesman.

moment Climacus

How,

then, does the believer

has described

know

that the

a reality?

is

Here everything depends on the underlying epistemological assumptions. If one takes

"knowledge" in the sense of classical foundationalism,

then the believer cannot know these things. Here Climacus' skeptical admonitions are pertinent. there

is

If

I

limit myself to

a warrant for the truth of Christianity. is

a

problem

with

what

is

objectively certain,

no body of evidence or philosophical argument that will provide for Christianity or rather

classical foundationalism.

an encounter with the

My

The

Christian faith

living Christ, but

demonstrate that this encounter

question

is

is

whether that

one more indication of a problem

I

may be grounded

in

cannot be expected to

a reality to

an unbeliever, given

the perspectival nature of reason and the inherent uncertainty which attaches to finite hum.an experience.

180

The

PASSIONATE REASON

/

rejection of classical foundational ism does not, however, imply

that "anything goes." Specifically,

does not imply that there

it

no

is

such thing as objective truth or that there are no ways of getting in

touch with that truth. Kierkegaard has,

I

think, rejected

what Gadamer has

called the

He

agreement

Enlightenment "prejudice against prejudice."

has,

many contemporary "postmodern" thinkers, come finitude and historicity of human thinking. He does

with the

assume that finitude and historicity always cut us of truth, as really to is

many contemporary

off

in

to terms with

not, however,

from the

To assume

thinkers do.

possibility

this

not

is

have abandoned the "prejudice against prejudice," because

implicitly to

assume that our "subjectivity" always acts

a veil that clouds the truth.

It is

to fail to

it

as a distortion,

acknowledge the

possibility

that our subjectivity could enable us to grasp truth as well as block us

from the

goal. Like the radical critics of reason, Kierkegaard

shows us

the ways our subjectivity makes any final system of truth impossible.

However, Kierkegaard goes the whole way and seriously.

really takes historicity

This means that the factors that block and distort our grasp

of truth are historical as well and could be changed. Hence, even

though "the system" may not be attainable, truth may be provisionally grasped.

However, the

crucial condition for this

is

not a retreat to

objectivity, but a transformation of subjectivity, a personal change.

Alvin Plantinga, in defending what he has termed "Reformed Epistemology," has argued that knowledge nitive mechanisms,

when

these

is

the product of

mechanisms

my human

cog-

are functioning as they

were designed to function in the environment in which they were inten-

ded to function.^^

Of

course such an epistemological perspective

no means metaphysically things about

neutral;

human beings and

it

is

by

we know some However, why should we

presupposes that

their purposes.

think that any epistemological theory can be metaphysically neutral, or that

we could even get started on an account of what knowledge is withknow some things? If this is

out assuming at least provisionally that we

the kind of epistemological perspective that underlies the question as to

whether the Christian can know that

his

encounter with Christ

uine, then the negative answer the classical foundationalist is

by no means obviously

right.

1

is

gen-

would give

believe a positive answer can be given

with a slight emendation of Plantinga's view.

Christianity in the

The

who

Christian

Contemporary World

181

/

takes Climacus' view of faith will surely say

that with respect to essential truth, our cognitive faculties are impaired

by

sin;

they are not functioning as they were intended to function in

an environment

in

which they were designed

Hence an

to function.

important modification to Plantinga's definition must be made. Truth, at least essential truth,

the product of the restoration and healing of

is

our cognitive faculties, which makes them able to function as they

were intended to function in an environment in which they were intended to function.

The

restoration

and healing

is

one that

made

is

knower through an encounter

possible by the transformation of the

with Christ. In this transformation, the prideful attitudes of imperialistic reason are put to death, and the individual can begin to recognize Jesus

God

Christ as

one who

incarnate, the

fulfills

hopes, including the needs and hopes of reason

by coming to understand futilely

sought in

its

own

its

domineering manner

my cognitive mechanisms to function my own spiritual transformation.

for

it

does that the truth

inside me.

ably

The

truth

bound up with my own

all

along.

is

required

spiritual transformation,

is

is

insepar-

is

and that

is

The

possible require attitudes that

insights the I

far

on the Christian perspective achieved is

inappropriate here

as well, since the process in this case includes

important role for choice.

Human

What

had

it

inappropriate here, implying as

through a relationship. The term "mechanism" another reason

fulfilled

is

appropriately in this case

rather that the attainment of truth

from a mechanical process, but

for

Reason

the result of some machinery- whirring along

is is

is

deepest needs and

and discovering what

limits

Perhaps the word "mechanisms"

my

itself.

can

an

encounter with Christ makes

will to affirm or repudiate.

existence, as Kierkegaard understands

it,

neither guarantees

nor excludes the attainment of truth. Kierkegaard affirms, with "post-

modern"

writers, the hubris of rationalisms of various sorts,

the finitude and historicity of affirms,

human

existence.

with traditional Christians and on

this point the

as well, the possibility that in that finitude

discover truth. is

With

and

linked to subjectivity-.

We

stresses

also

ancient Greeks

historicity

respect to the Truth, that discover^'

spiritual transformation

and

However, he

is

we may one that

cannot discover the Truth apart from the

whereby we begin to embody the Truth.

Notes

1.

ON READING KIERKEGAARD AND JOHANNES CLIMACUS

1 Concluding Unscientific Postscript, translated by David F. Swenson and Walter Lowrie (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1968), p. 14 (Sarnkde Vxrker, 1st ed., 14 vols. tCopenhagen: Gyldendals, 1901-1906] vol. VII, 2). .

In future references to the Postscript, the

first

number

will refer to the pagination

of the old Swenson-Lowrie translation. All references to Kierkegaard's published writings will also include, as a second

of the first,

first

number

in parentheses, the pagination

edition of the Danish Samlede Vaerker (volume

The new Hong

followed by the page number).

as well as the other

number

volumes in the Kierkegaard's Writings

series,

pagination of this edition in the margins. Throughout this book

modified translations or used

my own,

but

I

will

appear

translation of Postscript,

includes the I

have

freely

always supply an English page

reference for the benefit of the reader. 2. Postscript, p.

3.

245n

(VII, 234n).

The Logic of Subjectivity: Kierkegaard's Alabama: University of Alabama Press, 1984);

See, for example, Louis Pojman,

Philosophy of Religion (University,

A

Steve Dunning, Kierkegaard's Dialectic of Inwardness: Structural Analysis of the Theory of Stages (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985); John Elrod, Being and Existence in Kierkegaard's Pseudonymous Works (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975); and

Mark

Taylor, Kierkegaard's Pseudonymous Author-

A Study of Time and the Self (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975). 4. Louis Mackey, Kierkegaard: A Kind of Poet (Philadelphia: University of

ship:

Pennsylvania Press, 1971). 5. This approach is well illustrated in discussions of Kierkegaard in two of Mark Taylor's recent works, though neither work is devoted solely to Kierkegaard. See his Tears (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1990), and also Erring: A Postmodein A/Theology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984). 6.

Louis Mackey, Kierkegaard:

7.

Besides Taylor's

Postmodernism series

Mackey,

own

A

Kind of Poet,

p. xi.

work, the following books from the Kierkegaard and

illustrate

the kinds of tendencies

I

have

in mind: Louis

Readings of Kierkegaard (Tallahassee: Florida State University Press, 1986); Sylviane Agacinski, Aparte: Conceptions and Deaths of Points of Vievj:

S0ren Kierkegaard (Tallahassee: Florida State University Press, 1988); and John Vignaux Smyth, A Question of Eros: Irony in Sterne, Kierkegaard, and Barthes (Tallahassee: Florida State University Press, 1986).

the above in some important respects but

still

A

writer

who

differs

from

situates Kierkegaard in the radical

is John Caputo, Radical Hermeneutics: Repetition, Deconstrucand the Hermeneutic Project (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987). 8. See H. A. Nielsen, Where the Passion Is: A Reading of Kierkegaard's Philosophical Fragments (Tallahassee: Florida State University Press, 1983);

milieu of Derrida tion,

1

184

Notes

/

fcrr

pages 4-1

and Robert Roberts, Faith, Reason, and History: Rethinking Kierkegaard's Philosophical Fragments (Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, 1986). Mackey, Points of View, p. 190. See Henning Fenger, Kierkegaard: The Myths and Their Origins (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1980). P. 147 and p. 214 contain particularly good examples of this kind of debunking. 11. See Josiah Thompson, Kierkegaojd (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1973). 12. Works of Love, translated bv Howard and Edna Hong (New York: Harper and Row, 1962), pp. 213-30 (IX, 216-34). 13. The Point of View for My Work as an Author: A Report to History, translated by Walter Lowrie (New York: Harper and Row, 1962), p. 72 (XIII, 561-62). 14. See again The Point of View, pp. 64-92 (XIII, 556-75). 15. "A First and Last Declaration," in Postscript, p. 551 (VII, 546). 16. See Mackey, Points of View, p. 187. 17. Many books could be cited as illustrating this procedure, for example John Elrod, Being and Existence in Kierkegaard's Pseudonymous Works, and James Collins, The Mind of Kierkegaard (Chicago: Regnery, 1953). 18. Niels Thulstrup, "Commentator's Introduction," in Philosophical Fragments, translated by David Swenson, revised by Howard V. Hong (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1962), p. Ixxxv. 19. See Nielsen, Where the Passion Is, pp. 22-23. 20. See Robert Roberts, Faith, Reason, and History, p. 7. 21. Philosophical Fragments, p. 7; (IV, 177). This quote and all future quotations and references from Philosophical Fragments will be referenced to the 9.

10.

new Princeton

edition. Philosophical Fragments (with Johannes Climacus) edited

and translated by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985). in parentheses

is

The

first

number given

to the pagination of the

is

first

to this edition; the

number

edition of Samlede Vaerker,

volume IV. The translations are usually my own; the English reference given is for the convenience of the reader. If no book is cited in a note, the reference is

to Fragments. 11. P. 7 (178). 23. S0ren Kierhegaard' s Journals

and Papers, 7

vols., edited

and translated by

Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong (Bloomington: Indiana University

Press,

1967-78), entry #1575. (Subsequent references to the Journals and Papers give only the entry number for the Hong edition.) 24. Published

in English with

the

new Hong

will,

translation of Phibsophical

Fragments. 25. For a fuller account see

my

article "Kierkegaard's

View

of

Humor: Must

Christians Always Be Solemn?" Faith and Philosophy 4, 2 (1987), 176-86, and chapter 10 of my book Kierkegaard's Fragments and Postscript (Atlantic Highlands, N.J.:

Humanities

26. Postscript, pp. 27. Postscript, p. 28. Postscript, p. 29. Postscript, p.

30. Postscript, p.

Press, 1983).

459-62n

462 403 402 243

(VII, 447-52n).

(VII, 451). (VII, 391). (VII, 391). (Vll, 231).

Notes for pages 14-23

AN IRONICAL THOUGHT EXPERIMENT

2.

1.

185

/

Plato represents Socrates as posing this paradox and solving

to the soul's recollection of truth

it

possessed before birth, in the

81c). See any standard edition of Plato, such as Plato:

it

by appeal

Meno

(80d-

The Collected Dialogues,

Hamilton and Huntington Cairns (Princeton: Princeton University

ed. Edith

Press, 1961), p. 363. 2.

TTie image of Socrates as a midwife

logues, pp.

is

developed

Hamilton and Cairns,

Protagoras (I49b'151d). See

at

Plato:

some length in the The Collected Dia-

854-56.

The

reminded that all references without other and that the first number refers to the pagination of the Kierkegaard's Writings edition, and the second number 13 (183).

3. P.

reader

is

identification are to Philosophical Fragments,

(in parentheses) refers to the pagination of the first edition of Samlede Vaerker. 4. P.

14 (184).

5.

Pp. 14-15 (184).

6.

Pp. 17-18 (187).

7.

R19(188).

8.

In developing his thought-experiment, Climacus uses the definite article

to speak of "the god" in a

way reminiscent of

Plato. In understanding the

application of the experiment to Christianity, which will quickly

apparent as the point of the whole procedure,

speak of

God

with no definite

article.

I

will

it

will often

become

be more natural to

sometimes follow Climacus and

use the definite article to keep the flavor of his thought-experiment in view,

but in some cases, particularly where

experiment

for

Christianity,

I

will

I

am

reflecting

on the implications of

his

switch to the more normal Christian

terminology. 9. Postscript, p.

245n

(VII, 234n).

10. P. 21 (191). 11. Pp.

21-22 (191). 246n

(VII, 236n). not attempt to decide the question as to whether there are other religions, such as Judaism and Islam, which are similar to Christianity in posing the problem of a historical foundation for salvation. Climacus thinks that there is something unique about Christianity. 12. Postscript, p. 13.

I

shall

See for example the essay by John Hick, "Jesus and the World Religions," The Myth of God Incarnate, edited by John Hick (London: SCM Press, 1977). Several later books of Hick's repeat this theme. Thomas Sheehan has developed a somewhat similar line of thought in his The First Coming: How the Kingdom of God Became Christianity (New York: Random House, 1986). 15. The Point of View, p. 13 (XIII, 523). 16. For those who want more on the relation between Climacus and Kierkegaard, I recommend chapters 1 and 2 of my Kierkegaard's Fragments and Postscript and numerous sections near the end of each chapter, particularly at the ends of chapters 11 and 12. 17. Act I, Scene v. 14.

in

18. Postscript, p. 3 (VII, v).

*

'

186

/

Notes for pages 23-41

19. Niels Thulstrup,

"Commentator's Introduction,"

in the

Swenson

trans-

lation of Philosophical Fragments (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1962), p.

152.

H. A. Nielsen, Where

20.

the Passion Is, p. 3.

21. P. 8 (178). 22. P. 8 (178).

CONSTRUCTING AN ALTERNATIVE TO THE SOCRATIC VIEW OF "THE TRUTH"

3.

1.

9-10 (180). That the highest human

Pp.

knowledge, because knowledge

is

dialogues, including the Protagoras

prove the immortality of the soul 2. Postscript, p.

166n

task

linked to virtue,

is

is

is

a

to gain true

theme

in

wisdom and

many

Platonic

and Meno. The most famous attempt

to

of course in the Phaedo.

(VJI, 178).

15 (184-85).

3. P.

4. See p. 12 (183), for example, where in the discussion of the Platonic view Climacus says that "eternal happiness is given... in the possession of the Truth that I had from the beginning."

Ill (272).

5. P.

See Robert Roberts, Faith, Reason, and History, pp. 30-44. 7. See Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays (New York: Random House, 1955). 8. P. 20 (190). 9. P. 14(184). 6.

10. P. 15 (184).

11. P. 15 (185). 12.

See Bernard Williams, Moral Luck (Cambridge: Cambridge University concept of moral luck. Apology, 41D, Plato, edited by Edith Hamilton and Huntington Cairns,

Press, 1981), for a seminal discussion of the

13. p. 25.

14. Pp. 15. Pp.

16-17n (186-87n). 14-15 (184).

16. P. 11 (181). 17. P. 18 (188). 18. P. 14 (184). 19. P.

20 (190).

20. P. 17 (187).

17-18 (187). 20 (189). 23. P. 20 (189). 24. Postscript, p. 452 (VII, 440).

21. Pp. 22. P.

28.

R R R R

29.

R11(181).

25. 26. 27.

21 (191). 21 (191). 21 (191).

22 (191).

Notes far pages 41-58 30. See

M.

J.

Ferreira,

187

/

"The Faith/History Problem and Kierkegaard's A

Priori

'Proof," Religious Studies 23 (1987), pp. 337-45. 31. P. Ill (272). 32. P. Ill (272). 33. Postscript, p.

332 (Vll, 322).

34. P. 109 (271). 35. P. 22 (191).

4.

LP. 23

THE POETRY OF THE INCARNATION (192).

2. P.

23 (192).

3. P.

24 (193). 24 (193). 33 (200).

4. P. 5. P.

R 25 (194). Robert Roberts argues in pp. 51-52. 8. ?. 32 (200). 9. R 32 (200). 10. R 28 (196). 11. R 28 (197). 12. R 26 (194). 13. R 27 (196). 14. R 29 (197). 15. R 29 (197). 16. R 33 (201). 17. R 32 (200). 18. R 33 (201). 6.

7.

19.

R

this

way

in his book. Faith, Reason,

and History,

34 (202). 35-36 (202-203). 36 (204).

20. Pp.

R R 23. R 21. 22.

24.

35 (202). 36 (203).

Many

writers

who

are addressing the

problem of the relationship of

Christianity to other faiths in a religiously pluralistic world evidence this sort

of embarrassment with respect to the incarnation. A clear example is found in John Hick, "Jesus and the World Religions," in The Myth of God Incarnate. Much of Hick s writings since this essay is along the same line. 25.

I

Corinthians

2:9.

This Pauline passage

is

alluded to frequently in Kier-

kegaard's writings.

5.

1.

2.

R R

THOUGHT, PASSION, AND PARADOX

37 (204). 38 (205).

188 3. P.

/

Notes far pages 59-70

38 (205).

38-39 (206). 39 (207). P. 45 (212). Climacus generally uses the Danish term Forstanden, which

4. Pp. 5. P. 6. 7.

translated by the

Hongs

as "the understanding,"

when

is

properly

referring to the faculty

human thought. It is of course well known that Hegel and some other German philosophers made a distinction between reason (Vemunft) and unof

derstanding (Verstand) and claimed that though the understanding cannot arrive at ultimate or absolute truth, reason could.

It

might be thought that the

that Climacus uses the Danish term for the understanding that

when he

argues, as

he does

the absolute paradox of the is

B

later, that

human

hypothesis that

limited in this way, not reason.

I

is

significant

fact

and

thinking cannot comprehend

it is

only the understanding that

believe that this inference would be

absolutely mistaken; a close reading of Philosophical Fragments as a whole leaves

no doubt that Climacus thinks that human beings are completely unable to comprehend the paradox of the incarnation. It was in fact to preclude this misinterpretation that David Swenson originally translated Forstanden as "the reason." To signify my own agreement with Swenson on this point, 1 shall talk interchangeably about reason or understanding in discussing these 8. P. 9. P.

10. P.

issues.

37 (204). 37 (204). 37 (204).

11. Pp.

38-39 (206).

39 (207). 13. P. 39 (207). 14. P. 40 (207). 15. See David Hume, "Sceptical Doubts Concerning the Operations of the Understanding," section 4 of An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding (Indianapolis, Ind.: Hackett Publishing Co., 1977), pp. 15-25. 16. See Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, translated by Norman Kemp Smith (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1965), pp. 500-506. 12. P.

17. P. 18.

40 (207).

Concluding Unscientific

Postscript, pp.

280-82, 284-85 (VII 271-73, 275-

76).

41n (208n'209n). See Alvin Plantinga, The Nature of Necessity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1974) pp. 196-221. Plantinga's argument that the possibility of God's existence implies the necessity of God's existence is of course far more complex and ingenious than this bald statement of its import. 19. P.

20.

21. P.

42n (209n).

22. P.

42 (209). 42 (209). 42 (209).

23. P. 24. P.

44 (211). 43 (211). 27. Pp. 42-43 (210). 28. See my Kierkegaard's Fragments and 25. P. 26. P.

Postscript, chapter 8,

and

my

article

Notes for pages 71-86 "Kierkegaard's Attack

on Apologetics,"

/

189

Christian Scholar's Review 10, 4 (1981),

322-32. 29. P.

45 (212).

30. P.

44 (212). 45 (212). 45 (213).

31. P. 32. P.

33. P. 45 (212). 34. P. 45 (213).

35. P. 45 (213).

45-46 (213). 46 (213). 46 (213). 46 (214). 46 (214).

36. Pp. 37. P. 38. P.

39. P.

40. P.

41. P. 47 (214).

46-47 (214).

42. Pp.

43. P. 47 (214). 44. P. 47 (214). 45. P. 39 (206). 46. P. 47 (214). 47. P. 47 (214). 48. P. 47 (214-215). 49. P. 47 (215). 50. P.

48 (215). 47-48 (214-15).

51. Pp.

6.

LP. 54

THE ECHO OF OFFENSE

(220).

2. P.

53(219).

3. P.

51 (217-18).

See Merold Westphal, Kierkegaard's Critique of Reason and Society (Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1987), p. 88. 4.

5. P. 6.

51 (217).

Pp.

49-50 (216-17).

50 (217). Pp. 52-53 (218-19).

7. P.

8.

9. P.

53 (219).

10. P. 51 (217).

11. See, for

example. Training

in Christianity, translated

by Walter Lowrie

(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1944), pp. 62-63 (XII, 55-56), and The Sickness unto Death, translated by Howard V. and Edna H. Hong (Princeton:

Princeton University' Press, 1980), pp. 84-87 (XI, 195-99). 12. For examples of commentators who appear to take this line see Alastair Hannay, Kierkegaard (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1982), pp. 106-108; Louis Pojman, The Logic of Subjectivity (University, Ala.: University of Alabama

190

Notes for pages 87-98

/

100-102; and Herbert M. Garelick, The Anti-Chnstianity (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1965), p. 29. 108-109 (219, 270).

Press, 1984), pp. 24,

of Kierkegaard 13. Pp. 53,

49 (216). 47 (215). See particularly The Sickness unto Death, pp. 83-96 (XI, 194-207). Pp. 53-54 (219-20).

14. P. 15. P. 16. 17.

18. P. 19. P.

54 (220). 54 (220).

7.

REASON AND THE PARADOX

55-56 (221-22).

1.

Pp.

2.

Pp. 56-57 (222-23).

The Danish word

seems almost perfectly captured by the English me that the Hongs chose to translate it by "follower" in so many cases. The Danish term, like the English "disciple," is a biblical term, and the biblical overtones are surely intended in a work that is so full of biblical allusions and quotations. Also, the English term "disciple" has strong intellectual connotations; one can be a disciple of a teacher, as Plato is sometimes said to be a disciple of Socrates, and these connotations also seem very much present in the Danish text, written as it is in the idiom of philosophical idealism. In short, "disciple" has just the right ambiguity in that it can serve as a term for an intellectual follower but also as a term for a follower of Jesus. "Follower" lacks these rich connotations. Its one merit might seem to be that it is an existential term that suggests action, but this is actually a demerit, since it removes some of the ironical flavor of Climacus' work, which is one that tries to describe an existential commitment (Christianity) in the idiom of philosophical idealism. 4. P. 59 (224). 5. P. 62 (227). 6. See David Swenson's classic Something about Kierkegaard, revised edition (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing Co., 1945). Also see Alastair MacKinnon's "Kierkegaard: Taradox' and Irrationalism," in Jerry Gill, editor, Essays on 3.

"disciple,"

and

Kierkegaard,

and

it

is

Discipel

puzzling to

his "Kierkegaard's Irrationalism Revisited," Intemodonal Phil-

osophical Quarterly 9 (1969), 165-76. Classic essays by Fabro

found in

(New

and S0e can be

A Kierkegaard Critique, edited by Howard Johnson and Niels Thulstrup

York: Harper and Row, 1962).

Actually, these writers and those to be discussed below often refer to Kierkegaard rather than Climacus, even though they are discussing the Climacus 7.

Not everyone acknowledges the distinction between the pseudonym and Kierkegaard himself as I do. To avoid awkwardness in my discussion I shall continue to speak of Climacus rather than Kierkegaard in referring to these treatments of Kierkegaard, even where the authors in section of Kierkegaard's authorship.

question speak of Kierkegaard. 8. See Alastair Hannay's Kierkegaard (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1982), pp. 106-108.

Notes for pages 98-108 9.

10.

/

191

See Brand Blanshard, "Kierkegaard on Faith," in Essays on Kierkegaard. Herbert Garelick, The Anti-Christianity of Kierkegaard (The Hague: Mar-

tinus Nijhoff, 1965), p. 28. 11. Louis

Alabama 12.

Pojman, The Logic of

Subjectivity (University, Ala.:

University of

Press, 1984), p. 136.

Pojman,

13. See, for

p. 137.

example.

Postscript, p.

85 (VII, 73).

The

description of

human

and eternity pervades Kierkegaard's writings. See, for example, the famous opening pages of The Sickness unto Death, edited and translated by Howard V. and Edna H. Hong (Princeton: Princeton Unilife

as a synthesis of temporality

versity Press, 1980) pp. 13-14. 14. In

Concluding Unscientific Postscript Johannes Climacus describes existence

as a "striving,"

15. P.

which involves a "self-contradiction"

(P. 84; VII, 72).

87 (250).

512 (VII, 504). 62 (227). 18. For example, see Postscript, p. 183 (VII, 171). It may be that the designation of the paradox as the absurd by Climacus is a consequence of the non-Christian character of the pseudonym, or at least of the professedly nonChristian stance. It is worth noting that Alastair McKinnon's computer studies of the Kierkegaardian text have shown that references to the incarnation as the absurd come almost exclusively from the pseudonymous authorship, which represent how the incarnation will appear to a non-Christian, and are almost nonexistent in Kierkegaard's nonpseudonymous writings. See Alastair MacKinnon, T.He Kierkegaard Indices (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1970-1975), particularly volumes III and IV. 19. P. 86 (249-50). 20. For example, Hegel says that nature is a contradiction. See his Philosophy of Nature, translated by A. V. Miller (Oxford: Clarendon Press: 1970), pp. 1716. Postscript, P. 17. P.

22. 21. Postscript, p.

459 (VII, 447).

22. P. 108 (270). 23. Pp.

108-109 (270).

24. P. 53 (219). 25. P. 101 (263).

(My emphasis)

26. P. 101 (263-64). 27. Postscript, p. 28.

be

See Training

504 (VII, 495). pp. 124-25 (XII, 117).

in Christianity,

(New

translation will

titled Practice in Christianity.)

29.

See Pojman, The Logic of

Subjectivity

,

p.

123.

30. P. 39 (207). 31. This

is

just

the materialist 32. Pp.

is

an

illustration.

I

do not mean

correct; as a matter of fact,

my

to suggest by this example that sympathies lie with the dualist.

46-47 (214).

33. P. 52 (218). 34. See

The

Sickness unto Death, pp.

83-96

(XI,

194-207) and Training

in

Chrisuanity, p. 64 (XII, 57). 35.

A good example of this reading of Kierkegaard

is

found in

W. W.

Bartley,

192 III,

/

The Retreat

Notes for pages 108-117 to

Commitment, second edition (LaSalle,

111.:

Open Court

Publishing Co., 1984), pp. 39-49. 36. Postscript, p.

35n (24n).

37. See Fragments, p. 59 (224),

and

514 (VII, 505).

also Postscript, p.

38. P. 59 (224). 39. S0ren Kierkegaard's Journals and Papers, vol

University Press, 1967), entry no. 10,

I.

(Bloomington: Indiana

p. 7.

48 (215). 47-48 (214-15). 42. P. 59 (224). 43. Pp. 55-56 (222). 40. P.

41. Pp.

44. P. 62 (227). 45. P. 62 (227). 46.

Alvin Plantinga, "Reason and Belief

God,"

in

in Faith

edited by Alvin Plantinga and Nicholas Wolterstorff (Notre versity of

Notre

Dame

and

Dame,

Ratiormlity, Ind.:

Uni-

Press, 1983), pp. 16-91.

"Reason and Belief 59-60 (225-26). 49. Pp. 59-61 (225-26). 50. P. 60 (226). 47. Plantinga,

in

God,"

pp. 78-82.

48. See pp.

51. P. 65 (229). 52. P. 58 (224). 53. P.

59 (225). 66-71 (230-34).

54. Pp.

66-67 (230-31).

55. Pp.

56. P. 57. P. 58.

I

68 (232). 69 (233).

thank Robert Roberts

for calling

my

attention to Bloom's writings and

this passage in particular.

59.

Anthony Bloom,

Beginning

to

Pray

(New

York: Paulist Press, 1970),

p.

xii.

60. P. 104 (266). 61. Louis

Pojman makes

Will (London: Routledge 62.

The

this charge, for

and Kegan

following passage

is

example, in Religious Belief and

the

Paul, 1986).

crucial here: "If the teacher (the god)

the occasion that reminds the learner, he cannot

assist

him

is

to be

to recollect that

he actually does know the Truth.... That for which the teacher can become the occasion of his recollecting is that he is untruth.... To this act of consciousness, the Socratic principle applies: the teacher is only an occasion, whoever he may be, even if he is a god" (p. 14 [184]). 63. See especially the second section. The following quote is very typical: "The decisive mark of Christian suffering is the fact that it is voluntary, and that

it is

the possibility of offence for the sufferer" (italics Kierkegaard's) {Training

in Christianity [Practice in Christianity], p.

1 1 1

64. Sickness unto Death, p. 83 (XI, 195). 65. Postscript, p. 51 (VII, 39).

[XII, 104]).

Notes for pages 119-131

8.

LP. 72 2.

3.

/

193

AND THE WILL

BELIEF

(235).

87-88 (251). For an example, see David Wisdo's Pp.

and Explanation,"

essay,

"Kierkegaard on Belief, Faith,

in International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 21, 2 (1987),

95-114. 4. P.

73 (236).

74 (237). See H. A. Nielsen, Where the Passion Is, pp. 129-33. H. A. Nielsen, Where the Passion Is, p. 130. H. A. Nielsen, Where the Passion Is, p. 130.

5. P.

6. 7.

8.

9. P.

10. P.

74 (237). 74 (237).

11. P. 75 (238). 12.

On

Richard

Interpretation, 21b-23a.

McKeon (New

York:

See The Basic Works of Aristotle, edited by House, 1941), pp. 54-60.

Random

13. P. 75 (238).

14. P. 75 (239). 15.

See H. A. Nielsen, Where 75-76 (239).

the Passion Is, pp.

130-39.

16. Pp.

76 (239). 76 (240). 19. See The Concept of Anxiety, translated by Reidar Thomte (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980), pp. 85-91. 20. H. A. Nielsen, Where the Passion Is, pp. 135-36. 21. P. 79 (243). 17. P. 18. P.

22. P. 77 (241). 23.

Richard Taylor, Metaphysics, second edition (Englewood

Prentice Hall, 1974), pp. 67-68. 24- Richard Taylor, Metaphysics,

Cliffs,

N.J.:

p. 68.

80 (243). 26. Louis Pojman, Religious Belief and the Will. 27. See Pojman, Religious Belief and the Will, pp. 143-48, 25. P.

for a fuller

account

of the following distinctions.

Pojman, Religious Belief and the Will, p. Pojman, Religious Belief and the Will, p. 30. Pojman, Religious Belief and the Will, p. 31. Pojman, Reli^ous Belief and the Will, p. 32. Terence Penelhum, God and Skepticism 28. 29.

179. 192.

158. 189.

(Dordrecht, Holland: D. Reidel

Publishing Co., 1983), pp. 81-82, 114. 33. David Wisdo takes exactly this line in his article, "Kierkegaard Faith,

and Explanation,"

(1987), 95-114.

See Pp. 86-88 (250-51). R 83 (247). 36. R 84 (247-48). 34.

35.

on

Belief,

in International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 21, 2

194

/

Notes for pages

B 1-147

37. P. 81 (244). 38. P. 81 (244). 39. P. 81 (245).

40. P. 81 (245). 41. Robert Roberts says this in Faith, Reason, and History, pp. 109-17. Roberts

thinks that Chmacus' arguments in the Interlude

CUmacus may be puUing our

leg,

may be

ironical,

and that

forcing us by his outrageous claims to think

things through for ourselves. 42. Pp.

81-82 (245).

43. P. 82 (245). 44. P. 82 (245-46). 45. P. 82 (246). 46. P. 84 (248). 47. P. 82 (246). 48. P.

84 (248).

299n (VII, 290n). Also see Fear and Trembling, translated and edited by Howard V. and Edna H. Hong (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983), pp. 5-7 (III, 57-59). 50. Fear and Trembling develops this polemic about going further at length, not only with respect to faith, but also with respect to the doubts of the skeptic. Besides the section cited in the last note, see also pp. 121-23 (III, 166—68). 49. See Concluding Unscientific Postscript, p.

51. P. 85 (248). 52. P.

84 (248).

53. P. 83 (246).

62 (227). example, the stress Climacus puts on a first-hand encounter in which the condition of faith is received from the God (70; 233). 54. P.

55. See, for

56. P. 14 (184).

9.

1.

Pp.

2. P.

3. P.

4. P. 5. P.

6. P. 7. P.

8.

FAITH AND HISTORY

89-90 (252-53).

92 93 93 97 94 95

(255).

(256). (256). (260). (257). (258).

97-98 (260-61). 98 (260). 94 (257).

Pp.

9. P.

10. P. 11. P.

95 (258). 96-97 (259-60). 96 (259). 96 (258). 99 (262). 99 (262).

12. Pp. 13. P. 14. P.

15. P. 16. P.

Notes far pages 147-160 17. P.

20. P. 21. P. 22. P. 23. P.

24. P. 25. P.

195

99 (262).

18. Postsaipt, pp. 19. P.

/

184--85n (VII, 172-73n).

99 (262). 99 (262). 100 (262). 106 (268). 104 (266). 104 (266). 104 (266).

26. For

some excellent examples of how theologians do

this,

even though

they intend to remain fully Christian in their view of jesus, see Robert Roberts,

and History, chapter 1. and Trembling, p. 55 (III, 105). 28. Pp. 13-14 (183-84). 29. P. 109 (271). 30. Postscript, pp. 498 and 507-508 (VII, 489 and 499-500). 31. P. 104 (266). 32. M. J. Ferreira, "The Faith/History Problem and Kierkegaard's A Priori 'Proof ," Reli^ous Studies 23 (1987), 337-45. I realize that Ferreira's argument here presupposes a particular theory of identity for historical figures, and that if one adopted some rival theory, in particular some austere version of a causal theory, this argument may not hold. However, I find Ferreira's view extremely plausible, and 1 am inclined to think that any theory of identity that would have as an implication that I could meaningfully refer to a figure about whom I knew nothing at all would carry a heavy burden of proof. 33. See Alvin Plantinga, "Reason and Belief in God," in Faith and Rationality, edited by Alvin Plantinga and Nicholas Wolterstorff (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1983), pp. 46-47, for an account of what it is for a belief to be properly basic. 34. I do not wish to deny here that in a wide enough sense of "evidence" this encounter which I describe as the ground could itself be viewed as evidence. In saying it is not evidence I mean first that it is not a propositional belief which has any logical relations to faith, and secondly that it does not form the basis for any process of inference by which the individual arrives at faith. 35. The following remarks are inspired by some points made with respect to religious experience by William Alston, "The Place of Experience in the Grounds of Religious Belief," unpublished paper delivered at a conference at Gordon College on "The Future of God," May 26, 1989. I do not claim that Alston would endorse this use of his distinction. 36. See my "The Epistemological Significance of Transformative Religious Experience," in Faith and Philosophy 8, 2 (1991), 180-92. Faith, Reason,

27. Fear

37. P. 104 (266). 38. Pp. 39.

"A

The

94-95n (257-58n). following well-known passage

miracle

is

lies at

a violation of the laws of nature;

the heart of Hume's argument:

and

as a firm

and unalterable

experience has established these laws, the proof against a miracle, from the very nature of the fact, is as entire as any argument from experience can possibly be imagined" (An Inquiry Concerning Fluman Understanding [Indianapolis, Ind.:

^

196

Notes far pages 162-176

/

Hackett Publishing Co., 1977], argument. 40. See

my

p. 76).

discussion in chapter

41. P. 56 (222).

I

am tempted

See pp. 72-77

for the thrust of

Hume's

7.

to translate this passage in the following

manner: "Every accommodating aid the one

who

in understanding cannot genuinely help has not received the condition, which is why it is extorted from

the god only unwillingly." 42. P. 93 (256). 43. See the discussion of the necessity of the past 80 (243). 44. See Acts 2:22. 45. P. 109 (270).

in the Interlude, pp.

79-

46. P. 109 (271). 47. P. 109. This

is

one of many

allusions to

I

Corinthians 2:7-9 in Kier-

kegaard's authorship. 48. P. 109 (271).

10.

CHRISTIANITY

IN

THE

CONTEMPORARY WORLD LP.

Ill (272).

2. P.

Ill (272).

See Robert Roberts, Faith, Reason, and History, chapter 1. 4. See John B. Cobb, Jr., Christ in a Pluralistic Age (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1975), pp. 139, 142. Also see "A Whiteheadian ChristoL ogy," in Process Philosophy and Christian Thought, edited by Delwin Brown, Ralph E. James, Jr., and Gene Reeves (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Company, 3.

1971), 5.

p.

392.

Christ in a Pluralistic Age, p. 140.

6. Christ in

a

Pluralistic

Age,

p.

142.

Besides Faith, Reason, and History, pp. 34-37, see also Robert Roberts, Rudolf Bultmann's Theology (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1976), 7.

chapter 8.

3.

See The Myth of God Incarnate, edited by John Hick (London:

SCM

Press, 1977). First Coming (New York: Random House, 1986). Sheehan, p. 61. 11. Sheehan, p. 12412. Michael Goulder, "The Two Roots of the Christian Myth," in The Myth of God Incarnate, pp. 64-85. 13. The Myth of God Incarnate, pp. 186-203. 14. The Myth of God Incarnate, p. 205. 9.

Thomas Sheehan, The

10.

15. P. Ill (272). 16.

Alasdair Maclntyre, After Virtue, second edition (Notre Dame, Ind.: Dame Press, 1984), pp. 39-47.

University of Notre 17. III.:

W.W.

Bartley,

Open Court

III,

The

Retreat to

Publishing Co., 1984),

Commitment, second edition (LaSalle, p. 42.

Notes far pages 177-180 18.

/

197

Terence Penelhum, God and Skepticism (Dordrecht, The Netherlands: D.

Reidel PubUshing Co., 1983), pp. 75-84.

Penelhum, God and Skepticism, pp. 114-15, 81-82. Alvin Plantinga, "Justification and Theism," Faith and Philosophy (1987), 403-26. 19.

20.

4,

4

Index

Accident: learner and

loss

of condition

35-36 Alston, William: faith and historical for acquiring truth,

evi-

dence, 157

order, 154

and place of contemporary world, ix; importance of the historical to character of faith, ix-x, 148-49; Climacus and religious perspective of humorist, 11-12; philosophy and Climacus as humorist, 12; Socratic view of truth, 15; relationship between history and salvation, 20-22; motto of Fragments,

Christianity: traditional

Apologetics: as betrayal of Christianity,

90 Aristotle:

Christendom: naturalization of faith, 146, 166-67; self-deification and social

power of individual to

alter

moral condition, 37; concept of god, 47; principle of noncontradiction, 101; possibility in relation to necessity, 122;

subjectivity and realism, 138 Authors and authorship: approach to

Kierkegaard, 4-5; alternative to

faith in

23-24; nineteenth-century idealism truth, 29-30; a

Socratic view of truth, 40-41; non-

and Socratic view of

Christians and understanding of Chris-

priori proof of truth, 41; divine revela-

tianity,

44-45; Climacus' stance

as,

54-55

ability of

non-Chris-

W.

E.:

Enlightenment view of as dehumanizing and degrading, 51; believer's inability to

of faith, 146

doctrine of "radical

ogy and ontological argument, 64-68. terms from Danish,

knowledge and will, 128-31; skepticism and doubt, 131-38. 120; historical

See also Faith

Blanshard, Brand: paradox as logical contradiction, 98 Bloom, Anthony: conversion experience, 114-15 Buddhism: salvation and history, 19-20; salvation and truth, 28; Socratic view of truth, 30; Christian concept of incarnation, 55; examples of eternal

147

and

Calvinism: egalitarian principles and

150

Camus, Albert: normative view of

human

84-91; egalitarianism

historical evidence, 149-52; indif-

evidence, 152-60; miracles and historical evidence, 166; intent of Climacus'

thought-experiment, 166-69; Climacus' experiment and contemporary theology, 171-75; reason and

commitment, 176-79;

and Christendom Cobb, John: Socratic thought and con-

nature, 31

Change: character of and existence, 120-24

subjectivity

truth, 179-81. See also

temporary theology, 171

Commitment:

Christianity and reason, 176-79 The Concept of Anxiety (Kierkegaard): distinction between time and temporality,

Bultmann, Rudolf: Socratic thought and contemporary theology, 171-72

historical faith,

80-81; competency of reason

for evaluation of,

ference of faith to quality of historical

See also Existence Belief: translation of

understand, 56-57; modern

forms of thought and difficulty of belief,

choice," 176-77 Being: arguments against natural theol-

facts,

55-57;

tians to understand, 42-45;

Baptism: Christendom and naturalization Hartley,

tion, 42,

125

Concluding Unscientific Postscript

to the

Philosophical Fragments (Kierkegaard):

understanding of Johannes Climacus as 10; Climacus on review of Fragments 1 6; inclusion of Kierke-

pseudonym, ,

gaard's

name on

title

page, 22; rela-

tionship of thought to being, 66

Consciousness: paradox and offense,

91-95

200

Index

/

Consequences: argument from historical apologetics, 145-46 Contemporaries: historical and real, 113-17 Contradiction: paradox as formal, 97-

tion of demonstration by argument, 65-67; possibility and necessity, 12024; finitude

and

historicity of

human,

181

104. See also Noncontradiction Conversion: historical and real contemporaries,

Existence: proofs of God's, 63-71; ques-

114

Existentialism: Kierkegaard

and passion-

ate character of reason, x; normative

concept of true humanness, 31

Cupitt, Don: Socratic thought and con-

temporary theology, 174

Experience: historical and real contemporaries, 115; faith

and relevance of

historical evidence, 156-57, 159-60,

Death: eternal consciousness, 25 Design: critique of argument from, 68-71 Difference: absolute between

human

God and

Danish, 12

beings, 75

and relationship to God,

Disciples: love

49-50; translation of term from Danish,

96, 190n.3;

first

and

latest

genera-

tions of "secondary," 144-46;

irrelevance of historical evidence for faith,

164-65 Experiment: translation of term from

146-49. See also Learner and

Fabro, Cornelio: paradox as logical con-

98 consequences and character of, 145-46; eternal and absolute concept of faith, 147-48. See also Evidence tradiction,

Fact:

Faith: critique of

argument from design,

69; love as analogy for relation to

learning

Domestication: Christendom and natural-

understanding, 79, 93; as response to paradox, 82; competency of reason for

ization of faith, 146

Doubt: skepticism and historical knowledge, 131-38

evaluation of Christian, 84-91; as condition for understanding of truth, 96;

97between reason and paradox, 105-107; reason and acquisition of Christian, 109-113; historical and

Dualism: mind-body problem, 88, 104, 110

paradox

as formal contradiction,

99; tension

Dunning, Stephen: philosophical approach to Kierkegaard, 2

real contemporaries,

Egalitarianism: principles of

and concept

of God, 148-49; faith and relevance of historical evidence,

149-52

charge of volitionism, 130-31; skepti-

Either/Or (Kierkegaard): doctrine of "radical

113-17; paradox

and neutrality, 117-18; translation from Danish, 120; Climacus' and

choice," 176

Enlightenment: place of religious faith contemporary world, ix; place and

in

cism and doubt, 131-38; eminent and role of will, 138-42; first and latest generations of disciples, 144-46;

irrele-

character of reason in contemporary

vance of historical evidence for, 14649; quality of historical evidence and,

x; view of Christianity as dehumanizing and degrading, 51; Kierke-

paradox, 163-66;

gaard's response to critique of

reason, 178-79

world,

152-60; subjective improbability of

commitment and 127-28

Christianity, 178-79; prejudice against

Fatalism: argument for truth

prejudice, 180

Fear and Trembling (Kierkegaard):

Equality: love

and analogy of king and

maiden, 50-54. See also Egalitarianism Evidence: as distinct from grounds, 11112; historical

knowledge and

belief,

of,

diffi-

culty of skepticism, 135 Ferreira,

M.

J.:

faith

and

historical evi-

dence, 155; theory of identity for historical figures, 195n.32

137; irrelevance of historical for faith,

Feuerbach, Ludwig von: understanding of

146-49; historical and egalitarianism,

the unknown, 72 Foundationalism: Climacus and classical skepticism, 132; truth of Christianity

149-52; faith and quality of historical, 152-60; paradox and probability,

160-66

and

classical,

179-80

Index Fragments: translation of term from Danish,

18-19

as teacher, 48; nature

and

history,

between past and

126; relationship

28; Socratic

view

incarnation, 55; examples of eternal facts,

147

History and the historical: importance to character of Christian faith, ix-x; author's approach to Kierkegaard, 3-4;

128

future,

and salvation,

of truth, 30; Christian concept of

Freedom: historical character of human, 37; relationship between learner and

God

truth

201

I

Freud, Sigmund: depth psychology and

Future: relationship

between

and salvation, 19-20; knowlfaith, 112-13; historical and real contemporaries, 113-17; cominginto-existence, 124-26; unchangeability of past, 126-28; belief, will, and religions

edge and

Christian faith, 94 past and,

127-28 Garelick, Herbert: paradox as logical

nature of knowledge, 128-31; skepti-

cism and doubt, 131-38;

contradiction, 98

Geography: egalitarian principles and discrimination by, 150 God: teacher and learning of truth, 1516; Socratic self-knowledge and assumptions concerning, 33; learner and conditions for acquiring truth, 35; construction of alternative to Socratic

view of truth, 37-39; goals and motives of teachers, 47-48; love and relationship to disciple, 49-50; love and analogy of king and maiden, 5054; proofs of existence, 63-71; the

known and unknown, 71-73; paradox

est

first

and

lat-

generations of disciples, 144-46;

irrelevance of evidence for faith, 14652; indifference of faith to quality of

evidence, 152-60; evidence for para-

dox and

probability, 160-66; Christi-

anity distinguished from, 167; theory

of identity for historical figures,

195n.32

Human

nature: normative view of, 31; Climacus' assumptions concerning, 5860; Kierkegaard

and depth psychology,

134

Hume, David: Climacus and demonstra-

of self-revelation, 73-77; reason's

tion of fact, 65, 66; cognition of "mat-

ambivalent response to paradox, 7779; tension between reason and paradox, 105-107; historical and real contemporaries, 113-17; first and second

ters

generations of disciples, 144-46; egalitarian principles

and concept

of,

148-

49; probability of miracles, 161-62;

of fact," 120; knowledge of

impressions, 132; difficulty of skepti-

cism, 135; critical attack

on

miracles,

160-62, 195n.39 Humility: as requirement for leap of faith,

141

Humor: concept of

for

Climacus, 10-12;

Climacus and Christian terminology,

serious philosophical purpose and, 18;

185n.8

Climacus' use of term "contradiction,"

Goulder, Michael: Socratic thought and

100-101

contemporary theology, 172 Idealism: Socratic view of truth,

Hannay,

Alastair: paradox as logical con-

tradiction,

98

195n.32

Hegel, Georg: compared by Kierkegaard to Johannes Climacus, 9; Christianity

and nineteenth-century idealism, 2930; noncontradiction and absolute distinctions, 101; history and necessity, 127, 131; translation and usage of title

Immortality: Socratic view of truth,

33-34 Imperialism: reason and Christianity, 90 Improbability: evidence for paradox,

160-66 Incarnation: other religions and Christian concept of, 55-56; as logical con-

terms, 188n.7

Hegelianism:

29-30

Identity: theory of for history figures,

page of Fragments, 19

Hick, John: Socratic thought and contemporary theology, 172

Hinduism: history and salvation,

19;

tradiction, 87-88; absolute

paradox

and uniqueness, 102-103, 106;

sin

genuine historical event, 153; faith and historical belief in, 116; as

and

1

202

/

Index Love: Kierkegaard's standard

Incarnation (continued) evidence, 154-55; probability and improbability, 160-66; references to as

absurd in pseudonymous writings, 19 In. 18. See also Paradox Incongruity: Climacus and concept of

humor, 10-11

and thought experiment, 16-17; Climacus and authorship of B hypothesis, 40; form of book and Climacus as author, 54-55; paradox of

Interlocutor: irony

God's self-revelation, 73-74 Irony: Philosophical Fragments as thought

experiment, 16-18; reader's and Cli-

macus' game, 26-27

of, 4; as

motive for God as teacher, 47-48; assumptions about nature of, 48; relationship between God and disciple, 49- 50; analogy of king and maiden,

50- 54;

and ambivalence of

erotic

rea-

son toward paradox, 78-79; analogy of love and self-love, 92-93, 109

Maclntyre, Alasdair: doctrine of "radical choice," 176 Mackey, Louis: approach

to interpreta-

tion of Kierkegaard, 2,5; point of

view

m

Kierkegaard's writings, 4

MacKinnon,

Alastair: paradox as logical

contradiction, 98

James, William: speculative philosopher

and humor,

1

Johannes Climacus, or

De Omnibus Duhi-

tandum Est (Kierkegaard): study of and understanding of Johannes Climacus, 9;

Christianity and relationship to sal-

vation, 20-22

reason and irrationalism, 107

Hume's

critical attack on,

and value of

62, 195n.39; faith

160-

evi-

(Evans): compared to author's current

work, x-xi

Knowledge: historical and eternal consciousness, 21; faith and conceptual transformation. 111; historical and faith, 112-13; historical and real contemporaries, 113-17; Climacus and sociology of, 118; belief, will, and historical, 128-31; skepticism, doubt, and historical, 131-38; sociology of and egalitarian principles, 150 Language: concept of necessity and coming-into-existence, 121 Learner and learning: construction of alternative to Socratic view of truth,

x.

See also

Postmodernism ments, 170-81 Morality: Socratic view of truth, 36

Moses: relevance of historical evidence, 155 Motto: discussion of

God, 67

Literary criticism: as approach to Kierke-

gaard, 2-3

on Kierkegaard,

2-4

between Christian and Socratic view of truth, 87; paradox and grounds of offense, 1 17

for Philosophical

Fragments, 22-24

Mythology: transformation of Christian gospel

to, ix;

Christianity distinguished

from, 167

Nature: argument for God's existence

from works of God, 68-71; history and coming-into-existence, 124-26 Necessity: concept of and coming-intoexistence, 121-24; unchangeability of past,

126-28

Neutrality: paradox

34-37, 39. See also Disciples Leibniz, Gottfried: existence of

character of reason,

Moral: conclusions of Philosophical Frag-

Kierkegaard's Fragments and Postscripts

Logic: relations

104, 110

Miracles:

dence, 165-66 Modernism: Kierkegaard and passionate

Kant, Emmanuel: demonstration of existence by argument, 65, 66; limits of

Literature: three types of

Marx, Karl: Socratic view of truth, 30; critique of reason, 97 Materialism: mind-body problem, 88,

and reason, 117-18

Nielsen, H. A.: approach to Kierkegaard, 3;

Kierkegaard's use of pseudonyms,

6;

on Thulstrup's reading of Fragments. 23; concepts of necessity and cominginto-existence, 121-22, 123, 126 Nietzsche, Friedrich: depth psychology and Christian faith, 94; critique of reason, 97

Index

Nineham, Dennis: Socratic thought and contemporary theology, 172, 174 Noncontradiction: Climacus' defense of law

of,

101, 167

Offense: reason and response to paradox,

80-82; paradox and passive character of,

82-84; paradox and offended con-

sciousness, 91-95; Anti-Climacus

discussion

of,

107; sin

and

and

belief in

incarnation, 116-17; logic and grounds of,

203

I

Climacus on character of 94-95 Plantinga, Alvin: distinction between evidence and grounds, 111-12; defense of "Reformed Epistemology," 180-81 Plato: religious significance of knowledge of truth, 27; concept of God, 33; system of thought and Socratic view of truth, 34-35; subjectivity and realism, 138 Pojman, Louis: philosophical approach to Plagiarism: offense,

Kierkegaard,

2;

paradox

as logical

con-

and

tradiction, 99, 103; Kierkegaard

117

volitionism, 129-30, 131, 133; will

Ontology: thought and being, 64-68

and

belief, 134; volitionalism

and

ethics of belief, 138

Pagination: English page references and

Danish

editions, 183n.l, 184n.21,

ate character of reason, x; Christianity

185n.3 Paradox: fascination of

human

reason

with, 61; God's self-revelation, 73-77; reason's ambivalent response to, 79; reason

and offense

77-

as response to,

80-82; passive character of offense, sciousness, 91-95; as formal contradiction,

97-104; reason and description

104-105; tension between reason

and, 105-107; reason and neutrality,

117-18; evidence for and probability, 160-66. See also Incarnation Passion:

human

reason as expression

60-63; will and formation

of,

of,

134-35

paradox and offense, 82-84 Penelhum, Terence: Kierkegaard and

Passivity:

reason,

177

Peter: traditional Christianity as distor-

tion of Jesus' message, 173 Philosophical Fragments (Kierkegaard):

notes on reading

of,

1,

26-45; discussion of chapter

46-57; discussion of chapter

3,

2,

58-79;

discussion of appendix to chapter 3, 4, 96between

80-95; discussion of chapter 118; discussion of interlude

chapters 4 and of chapter

moral

of,

5,

on

and

faith

140

Preface: personality of Climacus,

24-25

Prejudice: Enlightenment prejudice against,

180

160-66 Pseudonyms: approaches to interpretation Probability: evidence for paradox,

of Kierkegaard, 5-7; Kierkegaard's

name on

title

page as editor, 22

Psychology: depth psychology and Christian faith, 94; skepticism

and

and will, 136-37

desires,

Reason: place and character of in contemporary world, x; revelation and

human understanding, unknown and known,

60-63; the 71-73; ambiva-

lent response to paradox, 77-79;

1-12; overall per-

spective on, 13-25; discussion of chapter

37. See also Will

Predestination: Climacus

134; evidence

direct volitionism, 130, 131; Christian

commitment and

and perspectival character of reason, 178-79 Power: individuals and moral condition,

will,

82-84; superiority of to offended con-

of,

Postmodernism: Kierkegaard and passion-

119-42; discussion

143-69; conclusions and 170-81 5,

Philosophy: Christianity and Climacus as

humorist, 12; reason and evaluation of

offense as response to paradox, 80-82;

paradox and passivity of, 83-84; competency for evaluation of Christian faith, 84-91; Kierkegaard and charges of irrationalism, 97; paradox as formal contradiction, 97-104; description of paradox, 104-105; tension between paradox and, 105-107; question of limits, ity,

107-109; paradox and neutral-

117-18; requirements for leap of

faith, 141; Christianity

and commit-

ment, 176-79; subjectivity and truth

Christian faith, 84; Christianity distin-

in Christianity, 181; translation

guished from, 167

use of terms, 188n.7

and

204

Index

/

Recollection: Climacus and theory

Socrates: Climacus

of,

60

59,

Reincarnation: faith and doctrine

of,

146

Relativism: author's approach to Kierkegaard, 3—4; normative concept of true

humanness, 31

and salvation, 19-20; history and

and motives, 46and relationship between God

151; teacher's goals

48; love

disciple,

cerning

authorship, 4-5; relation between his-

and passion, 62; argument from design, 69, 70; quest for self-knowledge, 76, 78; logic

Christianity

87;

Resurrection: conversion experience, 115. See also Incarnation

49-50; uncertainty connature, 58-60; reason

human

eternal consciousness, 21. See also

and Christian view of

truth,

wisdom and recognition of own

ignorance, 141; absolute concept of

between ChristiGreek modes of thought, 152; Climacus' experiment and con-

faith, 147; difference

Revelation: non-Christians and under-

standing of Christianity, 44-45; affinity

difficulty of seek-

native to view of truth, 26-45, 103,

and

Religion: purpose of Kierkegaard's

tory

and

ing truth, 13-15; construction of alter-

to reason, 60-63; paradox of God's

73-77 Rewriting: pseudonyms and perspective

anity and

temporary theology, 171-75

self-revelation,

S0e, N. H.: paradox as logical contradic-

of author, 7

Spinoza, Baruch: existence of God,

Roberts, Robert: approach to Kierkegaard, 3; Kierkegaard's use of pseudo-

nyms,

6;

Christian theologians as

tion,

66-67 Subjectivity: faith

42; Christianity

Socratic thinkers, 30, 171

ish,

construction of alternative to Socratic

view of truth, 27-29 torical evidence,

on

faith

and and

role of will, truth,

and

138-

179-81

Suffering: translation of term from

Salvation: history and religions, 19-22;

Scholarship: Climacus

98

Dan-

83

Swenson, David: paradox tradiction, 98

as logical

con-

his-

Taylor,

158-60, 167-69

Schopenhauer, Arthur: mind-body prob-

Mark C:

literary

approach to

Kierkegaard, 2 Taylor, Richard: argument for truth of

lem, ix

fatalism,

Science: as expression of reason, 62 Self-contradiction: Climacus' use of term,

100 Self-ironizing: reason

and the known and

unknown, 72-73 Self-love: analogy of love and, 79,

92-

93, 109 Sheehan, Thomas: Socratic thought and contemporary theology, 172-73 Sickness Unto Death (Kierkegaard): unrea-

sonableness of Christianity, 85; Christianity

and

human

personality, 134

offense, 111-17; will

Sin: difference

between

and

God and human

beings, 75-76; tension

between reason

and paradox, 105-107;

belief in incar-

nation, 116; improbability of paradox,

162-64 Skepticism: doubt and historical knowledge, 131-38

Social order: self-deification and Chris-

tendom, 154

127-28

Teacher: Socratic view of truth, 14, 15, 26; God and learning of truth, 15-16; alternative to Socratic view of truth,

37-39; goals and motives, 46-48; love and relationship between God and disciple, 49-50; love and analogy of king and maiden, 50-54 Temporality: as distinct from time, 125 Theology: natural and proofs of God's existence, 63-71, 123; Climacus'

experiment for contemporary, 171-75 Thought: construction of alternative to Socratic view of truth, 39-42; being and arguments against natural theology, 64-68 Thulstrup, Niels: Kierkegaard's use of pseudonyms, 6-7; on motto of Philosophical Fragments, 23

Time:

as distinct

from temporality, 125; and discrimina-

egalitarian principles

tion by, 150

Index Title page: implications

of,

18-22

Training in Christianity (Kierkegaard):

unreasonableness of Christianity, 85;

examples of offense, 116 Transcendence: Christianity and Christendom, 154 Translation (of terms from Danish): "experiment," 12; "fragments," 18-19; "passivity," 83; "disciple" and "follower," 96, 190n.3; "faith" and "belief," 120; English page references and Danish editions, 183n.l, 184n.21, 185n.3; use of terms, 188n.7 Truth: Philosophical Fragments as thought experiment, 13-16; eternal consciousness,

205

I

Understanding: non-Christians and Christianity, 43-45; reason

and the

known and unknown, 72-73; analogy for relation to

love as

faith, 79, 109;

offense as response to paradox, 89-95; translation

and use of terms, 188n.7

Unification Church: Christian concept of incarnation, 56

Uniqueness: Christian claim

Unknown,

of,

56

the: question of under-

standing, 71-73

Volitionism: criticism of Kierkegaard and, 129-30, 133; Climacus' analysis of faith, 130-31, 138

20-21; construction of alterna-

view of, 26-45; and assumptions of B hypothecompetency of reason to evalu-

tive to Socratic

Westphal, Merold: dialogue in Fragments, 81

learner

Wiles, Maurice: Socratic thought and

sis,

51;

ate Christian faith, 84-91; incarnation as logical contradiction, 103; history

and concept of, 145; egalitarian principles and formation of auxiliary hypothesis, 151-52; Christian and Greek modes of thought, 152; Christianity and subjectivity, 179-81

contemporary theology, 172 power of individuals to change moral condition, 37; faith and role of, 115-16, 138-42; historical knowledge and belief, 128-31; Climacus on skepticism, 133-36 Wittgenstein, Ludwig: limits of reason and irrationalism, 107 Will:

C. the

STEPHEN EVANS,

Professor of Philosophy

and Curator of

Howard V. and Edna H. Hong Kierkegaard

Olaf College, chology

is

Library at St.

the author of S0ren Kierkegaard's Christian Psy-

and Kierkegaard's Fragments and

Philosophy of Johannes Climacus.

Postscript:

The

Religious

Indiana University

Press

ISBN

D

073-1